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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Separating and recycling waste: tips & tricks

Updated: May 12

In our fight for the environment, sustainability and a better world, waste is also an important topic. Only if waste is properly separated and disposed, it can be converted into new materials. This way, we save raw materials, we save costs, and we create a sustainable world together.

Unfortunately, not everyone always disposes their waste the right way. Whether or not people do this, depends on the situation. For example: is it possible to separate waste? Do people think sustainability is important? Do people understand how to separate their waste? Do people think that separating waste is desirable or common? And do they think that it makes an impact? These are all aspects of the situation that influence whether or not people separate and dispose their waste correctly. So, how can you create a situations in which people do separate their waste and dispose it the right way? Here are a few tips and tricks to effectively change behaviour:

1: Facilitate!

We cannot repeat it often enough: make separating and disposing waste possible and easy. Place enough (or more than enough) waste bins, in which people can dispose their waste separately. Make sure that they are clearly visible, easily accessible, easily recognizable and easy to use. And make sure that it's very clear which waste goes in which bin. The easier it is to dispose waste in the right bin, the less we have to “push” people with additional arguments, rewards or sanctions.

2: Remind people of separating their waste

Although many people know that they should dispose their waste properly, most people do not think about this all the time. By reminding people about separating waste right before trowing it out, you help them to make the right decision. So use simple, recognizable cues in the environment and on packaging, which remind people to separate and dispose their waste correctly.

3: Emphasize a common and achievable goal

We are all responsible for creating a sustainable world and avoiding waste and pollution. Yet people put a lot of responsibility on large organizations. Do people hold your organization accountable for contributing to recycling and a sustainable world? Take it as a compliment: people believe that you can make great impact. Also when it comes to recycling.

You can respond to this in a smart way by emphasizing that recycling is a common goal: “we're in this together”. And by giving people the feeling that the goal is achievable: “together we can”. If people believe that even large organizations are really committed to recycling, it gives them the feeling that separating their waste actually makes sense. This gives them motivation dispose their waste correctly.

4: Teach people how to separate waste early and consistently

By teaching people how to separate waste at an early age, and by enabling them to do so consistently, we can create habits in the long term. So start with education about waste separation and recycling early, make sure that it is possible to separate waste everywhere (at home, at school, at work, in public space, etc.) and use the same waste streams, icons and colors everywhere and at all times for optimal effects. If companies and (semi-) governments work together in this, we can realize a sustainable generation that knows no better than to separate their waste and dispose it the right way in a reasonably short term.

These tips and tricks are based on our research on recycling behaviour, and can be applied well in general. But in order to really change behaviour effectively and efficiently, it is important to first look at your specific situation before you get started. This way, you can push the buttons that are important in your situation. Would you like more information or are you really serious about separating and recycling waste? Please feel free to contact us to talk about it.

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