Recycling Attitudes And Behaviour: The Business Case

How can society’s attitudes and behaviour regarding recycling be changed so that they are engaged in the process? One commentator argues for a focus on facts rather than emotion. An opinion piece in BusinessGreen by Helen Craig, Sustainability Manager for Axis Europe, comments on Defra’s latest figures for provisional household recycling rates in England for the first quarter of the 2012-13 financial year. These show that, from April to June 2012, there was an increase of only 0.5% in rates compared with the same period during 2011-12. In the article, Ms Craig states that there has been an increase in single stream recycling collections and better packaging design, factors which might have led to a larger increase; the fact that they did not do so means that a new way of engaging the public is needed. Ms Craig views householders as people who should be viewed as part of the supply chain rather than a “persuasion project” in isolation, and argues that a business case for action is needed when communicating with them, rather than simply promoting recycling as “doing the right thing”. People’s attitudes towards recycling vary, she asserts. Those who do it are aware of their reasons, but do not know enough about what happens if they don’t recycle. This issue is at the heart of Ms Craig’s belief that people should be engaged in the process, knowing the costs and benefits of recycling. To Ms Craig, businesses and local authorities have different approaches to waste. Whereas businesses view it as a valuable commodity, local authorities see it in terms of collection and disposal costs. Businesses and local authorities work in partnership when businesses buy waste materials to make packaging, which is good for the businesses’ profits and saves the council waste disposal fees. The householder, however, is excluded from this relationship because they do not know what is happening and why it is beneficial to them. The points raised by Helen Craig in BusinessGreen certainly provide food for thought. Recycling rates certainly need to be improved, and attitudes and behaviour do need to change in order for improvement to be made. If people are engaged in the process, and are provided with facts rather than made to feel guilty for not recycling, then they might be more likely to start changing their ways. But where can people get the facts? For useful information and advice on recycling, there are plenty of places to look. Recycling Lives is a social business with several decades of experience in waste management and recycling, and their user-friendly website provides information on what can be recycled and where it can be processed. Their news features regularly bring readers the latest developments in the recycling world, as well as advice and guidance on new legislation and areas of concern, such as what domestic waste materials people can and cannot recycle. There are other useful avenues to explore, too, with Recycling Lives’ Community Dotcom schemes. These include Car Donation Network and Furniture Donation Network, which enable people to dispose of unwanted possessions whilst benefiting charities, including Recycling Lives’ own social welfare charity supporting homeless individuals to get their lives back on track.