7 Tips to Improve Recycling at Work

Are you the person that is forever re-sorting the recycling at work and pulling coffee cups out of the paper stream? It can be easy to blame people for not doing the recycling ‘properly’ in the office but maybe there are some limitations with the set-up. Check out these tips: ​

Why your bin system could be the problem

1. Remove the under-desk bin
As humans we look for the easy option and the short cuts, so if people have an under-desk bin then they will automatically use this instead of walking to the recycling station. Ensure all the bins are together as most people won’t walk to find them.  


2. Make signage meaningful
Words like general waste or recycling are in fact meaningless, as they don’t explain what actual materials go in the bin. Use signage from the WRAP toolkit or put pictures that are relevant to the waste streams in your workplace. Make sure these signs are at eye-level and easy to read.

3. Restrict the bin opening 
Paper bins that have a narrow slit or coffee cup bins that have a round aperture can prevent contamination from other sources. Consider investing in bin toppers that restrict the types of waste that go in a bin. 



Photo credit: Adobe Stock
4. Framing the message positively  
Behavioural psychology confirms that people don’t respond well to being told off or made to feel guilty about their actions. Instead framing a message positively as an expected action is much stronger e.g. “Thanks for sorting your recycling”.


5. Reinforce the desired behaviour 
Rather than amplifying the undesirable behaviour, focus on the ideal behaviour and highlight how many people are also doing the action. Research has found we seek to fit in with other people. e.g ‘In this office, 70% of people use a reusable coffee cup’.

6. Set an example
Household recycling is a ‘social norm’. We do it because the neighbours do it, and less so as a pro-environmental behaviour. In the office, it is the same, social norms can be created using a ‘waste aware’ culture. You’ll find people look in the bins for cues of where to put things, so contamination in a bin will lead to further contamination (that means, initially, you probably  need to keep re-sorting/highlight common mistakes).

7. Look for waste reduction opportunities 
The ultimate way to tackle waste and recycling is to remove waste streams in the first place e.g. disposable coffee cups and plastic cups. 

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