Recycling: What to do to encourage the wrong behaviour?

There has been much talk of green fatigue, the stalling of the recycling rate in England and how to encourage the 'right' behaviour. Here, Paul Levett gives his top eleven tips on how to encourage the 'wrong' behaviour.

In any walk of life, there are extremists – in the environmental sphere, these range from green-blooded tree huggers to planet-gobbling climate change deniers. I wondered how the latter might address recycling:

1)Have a different collection system in each council area to confuse residents, particularly when they move home. This is particularly effective if you use the same colour bins for different materials in each area.

2)Ensure that recycling symbols on plastic packaging can only be read using a magnifying glass with the strength of the Hubble telescope.

3)Create confusion by suggesting that some materials “may be recyclable” or are “not widely recycled”.

4)Ensure that the list of materials which should be included in recycling bins vary by council and the instructions regarding rinsing out or removing bottle tops are also different. This will facilitate the production of different communication literature in each council area and ensures that the population cannot learn or pass on guidance when they talk with friends, family or colleagues from other areas.

5) Encourage residents to put all plastic pots, tubs and trays in their recycling bins, knowing that some of these cannot currently be recycled [excellent for creating confusion and undermining morale].

6) Keep the destinations of recyclates secret with the threat of extraordinary rendition of any whistleblowers who dare to mention brokers with outlets using child labour in Vietnam and Cambodia. This is excellent for making residents suspicious and ensuring that they do not go to extra effort to recycle.

7)Provide recycling bins of a size that will be full two or three days before collection day so that residents have to put the rest of their recyclates in their residual waste bins. This should be reinforced by insisting that bin lids are fully down and refusing to take bagged recyclates which are left next to the bin.

8) Destroy all copies of WRAP’s recent report ‘Approaches to the marketing of dry recyclables by local authorities’ in case some local authorities use the extra potential income from selling materials to fund more effective collection systems.

9)Discourage multi-authority joint services collection contracts as these might provide economies of scale and facilitate flexible services to address different types of housing stock. For example, high-rise flats or terraced houses.

10)Ensure that council waste departments do not retain any savings they make through efficiencies – any savings must result in a reduction in the waste budget and the transfer of the funds to another department. There must be no incentive to make savings to fund improved recycling services.

11)Do not assist local SME (small and medium enterprises) businesses to comply with TEEP (technically, environmentally and economically practicable) by using the same collection system as households – this might increase recycling and bring additional income to the council, thus creating the problem identified in nine above.

If comprehensively implemented, the above action plans should hold back recycling rates and put those environmentalists in their place! It couldn’t really happen – could it?

Of course we should be prepared in case the environmentalists fight back.
They might use TEEP as an opportunity for a strategic review of collection services and seek to improve the quality of the materials collected and perhaps combine volumes with other councils and sell these direct to UK reprocessors in order to generate additional income. That would be extremely dangerous!

Have your say – Do you agree with Levett’s opinion? Tweet us @LAWR_editor

Paul Levett is director of Waste Transition and a non-exec board member of a number of other companies in the environmental sector.

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