Thank you for recycling today, yesterday and last week, you are awesome.Dreadful communications on both sides of the EU Referendum campaign had me thinking about how we communicate about recycling and why recycling rates are flat-lining.
Everything has been blamed for the UK’s stalled recycling rates including China’s green fence, cheap waste incineration, lack of technology and council austerity. These may all contribute to slowing recycling rates to some extent, but the recycling industry is also to blame for poor communications which are usually negative and patronising.
We are recycle-numb from years of the same messages and we’ve been beaten with the same recycling stick until we are anesthetised, turned-off, bored and our efforts have plateaued.
Recycling has become such a regular part of our lives that many of us take it for granted and many in the industry and councils take us for granted for participating in recycling. As a result many of us are going through the motions, but have no reason to put in more effort to recycle because we have been trying to do more but every message tells us that it’s not good enough.
A £2m trial by DEFRA to promote recycling with rewards and nectar points hasn’t increased recycling rates and this might be because the messaging around the rewards subjugated rather than congratulated householders. Perhaps an intelligent (not childish) explanation why recycling benefits the environment and a celebration of our successes would have had more impact.
Human effort to make recycling happen is a BIG DEAL. Councils, companies, NGOs and colleagues say we should recycle and we need to do our bit; many of us are learning to be green and recycle more, but are we celebrated?
Maybe we should pause, celebrate, and reflect on how far we have progressed and then move on to have a more intelligent debate about waste reduction and increasing recycling.
Of course recycling should be easy, it should be convenient and simple to do, but we still have to participate and we will participate more if we are congratulated and celebrated, not brow-beaten and patronised.