Creating a Culture of Recycling

For some people, recycling is as common a daily routine as brushing their teeth – they do it for the immediate “feel good” effect as well as for long term motives. However, what about those people that still don’t recycle? In this post, we strive to provide businesses with some tools to increase the culture of recycling at their workplace.

Before you begin trying to change company culture, try to establish a baseline and goals for your efforts. For instance, if possible, try to record what your current recycling participation rates are as well as what your would like them to be.

Once you have your baseline and goals set, it’s best to try and understand why certain employees might not recycle. According to a recent article by The Huffington Post, here are the top 8 reasons people gave for not recycling (listed in order of prevalence):

  1. It’s not accessible or convenient (25% of respondents).
  2. It takes up too much time (10% of respondents).
  3. I always forget (10% of respondents).
  4. The cost to participate is too high (8% of respondents).
  5. I’m not sure what is recyclable and what’s not (6% of respondents).
  6. I don’t feel my recycling efforts will make a difference (3% of respondents).
  7. I don’t care about recycling/ I don’t think it’s important (2% of respondents).
  8. I don’t understand the environmental benefit (1% of respondents).
Recycling Survey
Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock”

While these responses seem to point strongly to accessibility as the most likely motivator or de-motivator for recycling, it’s important to note the variety of responses and percent of respondents represented by each answer. Likely, there will be more than one reason why your employees may not recycle. To counteract these reasons and increase a culture of recycling at your workplace, you can begin by asking all employees to complete a simple survey, designed to capture and record recycling motivators and de-motivators. Here are some tips on effects ways to collect and record your employees’ responses:

  • Shorter is Better: Keeping the survey short may increase participation and decrease chances for irritation arising from having to complete a longer survey.
  • Always Include Other: While providing multiple choice answers may help reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the survey and may increase participation, it’s important to always include an “other” option with room for respondents to insert their own answers. This way your survey can truly capture any possible responses.
  • Keep Things Anonymous: Employees may be more likely to provide honest answers to your questions if they are allowed freedom to do so anonymously, without fear of repercussions for their responses.

Once you receive the survey results, you can begin addressing your employees’ specific reasons for not recycling. For instance, if the most common reason for not recycling is lack of accessibility or convenience, you could focus your efforts on increasing accessibility and convenience. Similarly, if one of the main reasons your employees give for not recycling is that they forget, you might put efforts into reminding employees about recycling through daily emails, notices around the workplace, etc.

Recycling Collaboration
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It’s also important when brainstorming these solutions to include employees in your brainstorming process. If a diverse sample of employees are allowed to share the responsibility for creating the culture of recycling at your workplace, this may give them a sense of ownership and say in the project. Doing so may also increase the likelihood of finding successful solutions.

Here is an example: if one of the main reasons given for not recycling was that employees forget, and you decide the best way to remind employees to recycle is by sending daily emails, you may be missing key opportunities or additional obstacles. For instance, have you asked employees whether or not they read emails? Will employees respond well to receiving daily emails or will they create a sense of resentment that could cause negative connotations for your recycling efforts? These are all questions and considerations that employees may help address if they are included in the processes for finding and implementing solutions.

These are just a few tips for getting started in creating a culture of recycling at your workplace. For more ideas or to address specific needs of your facility, contact us today to learn more about our business recycling programs.