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Increasing recycling (including food waste, plastic, glass, cardboard/paper etc.)

Examining behaviours linked to increasing recycling.

  • What behaviour are you trying to change? E.g Putting the items which can be recycled into their designated box or bag

  • Whose behaviour are you trying to change? E.g Busy parents, guardians or carers

  • Where are you trying to change the behaviour? At home, or on holiday i.e Airbnbs

  • When are you trying to change the behaviour? After each meal

  • How often are you trying to change the behaviour? Every day, perhaps three times per day

What are the drivers/barriers to increasing recycling?

Do your communities have the capability to recycle? Psychological capability Do residents know where the recycling bins are? Do residents know where to order recycling bin bags from on your webpage or know where to pick them up from? Do residents know which items go in the recycling (or in which box/bag depending on the set up locally), the food waste (if you have it), or in the general waste? Do residents remember which day is recycling day and to put it out on that day?
Do your communities have the capability to recycle? Physical capability

Can residents carry the bags down the stairs/carry boxes out on to the streets?

Do your communities have the opportunity to recycle? Physical opportunity

Do residents have the time to recycle? Do residents have the bins/bags/boxes to recycle? Do they have enough space in their housing to recycle? Are residents prompted at the right time/evening to put out the recycling?

Do your communities have the opportunity to recycle? Social opportunity

Do others on their street, block of flats or local community recycle? Do others in the locality observe whether they put their box or bin out to recycle? Do people around them support, encourage and remind them to recycle? Is recycling the norm in their social group? Are they alienated from the social group if they do not recycle, or if they do? Do you have local environment champions modelling the behaviour to recycle?

Do your communities have the motivation to recycle? Automatic motivation

Do residents put recycle items in the household waste on autopilot? Do residents have any guilt of putting general waste in the recycling? Do too many competing priorities and a stressful day prevent the resident from putting the recycling out, or doing it in the first place? Do residents want to recycle?

Do your communities have the motivation to recycle?

Reflective motivation

Have they planned to put the recycling out on the right day? Do residents have the belief that they should recycle? Do residents have an attitude of needing to recycle to reduce waste which humans are making on the planet? Is preserving the environment a positive value forming part of their sense of identity?


What interventions could you use?


  • Provide information via text message to inform the resident to put the recycling out tomorrow, with information on what should go in it. Reminder of where you can order bins/bags/boxes from to recycle (Psychological capability)

  • Feedback for each household on how much waste could have been recycled, instead of going in the household waste (Reflective motivation)


  • Provide a picture of the amount of household waste in landfill (Reflective motivation)


  • A reward - a local park bench made out of recycled wood from the community. Congratulations and praise for recycling in certain parts of the community from the council social media account (Reflective motivation)

Environmental restructuring

  • Ease of using the website and therefore ordering bin bags or boxes for recycling; “This is not a recycling bin”. If there is a reminder by the waste bin in the park, you are reminded that you can put the bottle in a recycling bin instead. Provide an actual recycling bin in the park (Physical opportunity)

  • Leader boards for recycling in different parts of the community, e.g Tidy Towns in Ireland (Social opportunity)


  • Ask local leaders/celebs to take part in a live challenge in the middle of the town centre to recycle a pile of items into the correct bins as quickly as possible (Reflective motivation)


  • For those who might not be able to carry their recycling box or bin outside, perhaps you can encourage neighbours to pair up to help each other out (Physical capability)

  • Recycling bins/boxes/bags/compost bags delivered to your door on a regular basis without request (Physical opportunity)

  • Action planning for individuals – goal setting within the home to keep others in the same home accountable (Social opportunity)