Mental shortcuts for recycling
By Livvy Drake
Our brains are wired for energy conservation and to create mental shortcuts, what behavioral scientists call heuristics.
In research, it was found that Energy professionals use the below heuristics to identify items that use much electricity… if an item:
- is hot to touch
- heats or cools
- moves or heats water
On the other hand, lay people think it’s items that are large or are used a lot e.g. lighting.
I am preparing a workshop for a client’s ´’lunch and learn’ on behaviour change for the waste hierarchy.
It’s clear from the napkins and food boxes in the mixed recycling photos that there is a mental shortcut of: ‘if its paper its recyclable’. Sadly they are not (from what I understand).
I know that recycling is confusing, I spend a lot of time talking with clients about recycling issues and trying to unravel what waste contractors do and don’t accept. As well as what the claims made on packaging actually mean.
The mental shortcuts I use are:
- If it has food or grease on its not recyclable
- Used for cleaning or wiping up (a napkin or blue roll) it’s not recyclable
- Or is multiple different materials (card with plastic) – It is hard to recycle.
I’m sure those in the recycling industry have some other ones, what do you use?