Why don't people recycle?
Barriers and benefits to recycling
Barriers can be different depending on your community. Some areas may have curbside collection for every residence, while others may have only drop-off centers. But no matter how people recycle, multiple strategies and channels exist to promote recycling in any community. Here are some common barriers for recycling participation:
Before starting any program, project or marketing campaign you should identify the barriers and benefits that your clients have about your topic. This is often thought of as "knowing your audience." You wouldn't conduct the same activity with a third grader that you would with a college student because the same things do not motivate both groups. You can target the early adapters or low hanging fruit but to really tip the program or project it will be necessary to do more.
During your project there will be two distinct sets of benefits which will entice individuals to take action. Real benefits such as money, time and health and perceived benefits including "to fit in," "it's expected of me," and "I will get rewarded." These reward systems can be used concurrently or separately. Using both methods at the same time will help the program realize its most significant potential.
Additionally, it is necessary to be aware of the barriers that may prevent the project from realizing its desired potential. Real and perceived barriers can include: physical, economic, education and social barriers. It is not always easy to overcome these barriers but a well-thought-out and organized project will be able to move beyond these noted boundaries. Assessing these concerns with your constituents will help you figure out which barriers are real.
When identifying barriers, think about what can be attributed to the individual, such as a lack of knowledge to carry out the behavior. Also consider those barriers attributed to the external world, such as having to take recyclables to a drop-off location. Details on how to identify and overcome barriers are shown below.
How do I find out more about barriers?
The authors of Fostering Sustainable Behavior recommend conducting literature reviews, focus groups, observational studies and surveys or polls to learn more about your audience and how best to communicate with them.
The four most common reasons for skipping barrier identification include:
It is important to not let these barriers stop you from doing some research. In the end it will save you a considerable amount of time. Research doesn't have to cost a ton of money either – there are many inexpensive methods you can use to get the results you are looking for.
Try some of these methods below and learn from others.
1. Literature Reviews
3. Focus Groups
4. Personal Interviews
How do we overcome the barriers?
Successful environmental programs eliminate barriers AND increase the benefits of a behavior. To do this: You must determine the behavior you want to promote – recycling, green buying, composting, etc. You should also consider the target audience – apartment dwellers, college-age males or a specific subdivision. Finally, consider the conditions an individual will face when trying to adopt the behavior. By getting into the mind of the individual, you can better understand why they do not already engage in the behavior.