Factors impacting recycling in business are changing as demographics evolve, programs mature, and potential markets expand. A recent article published by GreenBiz offers insight into the shifting landscape of recycling and waste management. The information presented can be especially helpful to organizations exploring how to increase recycling efforts using a more strategic approach.
According to the article, accessibility and convenience surpass all other factors in determining participation in these programs. Of those, convenience (i.e., a person’s perception of how easy it is to recycle) has more impact on behavior than accessibility.
For example, there may be a special waste management facility nearby that accepts used lightbulbs—but is only open during certain hours. While accessible, the potential recycler may view it as less convenient than taking these items to a local hardware store that accepts recyclables, where they can also buy replacement bulbs.
While convenience wins over accessibility in driving participation in recycling, it’s really the motivations and attitudes of the recycler that count.
The article notes a difference between green behaviors and green attitudes:
Understanding and closing the gap between a person knowing that they should do something and actually doing it is the primary challenge in recycling.
A big part of closing this gap is understanding the players involved. Recycling in the U.S. is changing as baby boomers grow older and millennials begin to dominate the workplace. This is an important observation for companies hoping to address how to increase employee engagement in business recycling programs.
While millennials may talk more about the importance of values, their actions don’t always reflect their stated convictions. Businesses looking to increase recycling should be aware that experiences are more important to this growing demographic than to previous generations. Creating a “fresh and fun” approach to recycling programs is key to driving engagement and action within this group.
But it would be a mistake to focus solely on millennials. The article says personalized, targeted messaging about the importance of recycling that goes beyond “protect the environment” and “save the planet” can resonate across many different age groups.
It tells us that finding personal triggers can improve recycling involvement:
Messaging campaigns should help consumers to see their individual contributions as part of a bigger sustainability movement for their families and communities.
Put another way, while it’s great to think globally, people tend to respond better when programs are positioned to act locally. Communicating how a recycling program can have a regional, immediate and personal impact is more likely to gain support.
There are other factors cited that can also help lead to successful recycling efforts:
- People like to be rewarded for recycling—either monetarily or emotionally.
- Well-designed programs help recycling become a habit, not a chore.
- Winning recycling programs should be engaging, memorable and fun.
If your organization’s approach to sustainability is feeling a bit dated, it may be time to explore some of the factors noted in this piece and recycle your current approach to recycling in business.