Re: Effectiveness of Recycling toters/carts vs. Recycle Dumpsters
2016-01-09 16:19:55 UTC
I don't have the precise answer you are looking for, but I do have some good stuff.
My colleague and I spent several years on two pilot projects at townhouse developments in Metro Vancouver. At the best on, we saw a 250% increase in diversion from garbage, so that is a big success.
Metro Vancouver has a goal of 80% diversion from garbage, very progressive. However, at site after site I would calculate how much of the waste stream was dedicated to diversion.
Usually it was about 10%. 10% of the volume of toters, bins and dumpsters was for diversion and 90% was for garbage. Obviously you can't fit 80% of the material into 10% of the space.
And so naturally, we say those people are lazy, stupid and uncaring.
Sorry, bit of a pet peeve there.
So, we added toters, which were promptly filled with recycling. We added more toters. We added food scraps bins and cardboard dumpsters. We found very little results from our prompts, feedback and norming experiments, but consistent improvements with GIVING PEOPLE MORE SPACE FOR DIVERSION.
So, most people know most of what to do. Most people know recycling is a good thing. (This may be different in your jurisdiction, but assume people are good, and caring).
It turns out people weren't lazy, stupid or uncaringunless you are talking about the waste engineers. The problem was we shook our finger at the residents, and gave them 10% of the space to recycle in.
Another experiment was a quick test of the Blue Box effect. We had a site that was changing from shared, centralized toters to individual blue boxes. Common belief is that personal ownership increases recycling. But, in this SMALL and SHORT test, we saw no increase in recycling behaviour with individual bins.
We often heard from people how they would get frustrated and stop recycling because the totes were overflowing with material. They would carefully separate their stuff, bag it, carry it outside...and find the tote overflowing. So they would take it back in and try again next week. It doesn't take too many repeats before any normal person will throw their recycling in the garbage and not bother.
We also found garbage dumpsters were hilariously oversized. Our jurisdiction was paying private haulers huge and needless sums to tip air.
1) Increase your recycling space. Personally, I like the combination of blue totes for recycling and a more centralized dumpster for cardboard.
2) Add food and yard scraps collection. If your jurisdiction does not do that yet, do not fall for the crap idea of not collecting yard scraps. The residents, real human beings, don't think it makes any sense that they can put their food scraps in a green bin, but not their grass clippings. Don't breed resentment and withdrawal.
3) Downsize your garbage dumpsters. Collect data, by weight from the hauler, or by volume visually. Downsize your dumpster as aggressively and as far as you can.
YOU WANT TO SEND THE SIGNAL THAT THERE SHOULD BE VERY LITTLE GARBAGE.
So, if the numbers work, it is preferable to have a smaller dumpster tipped more often.
So, that is participation. Now for contamination.
Try to break behaviour down into little pieces. Where is the choice made, in this case the improper sorting of material?
At home, it is mostly made in the kitchen.
So, you don't need much in the way of signage on your bins or dumpsters. Sure, it is easy to put it there, but you are wasting your money.
You need a hierarchy of information. On the tote should be a simple black and white icon, showing the material stream, along with a standardized colour.
This same icon and colour set should be repeated at sorting stations all around your region, in homes, in schools, in offices. We are trying to trigger habits here. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR EDUCATION.
When you give people to much information, their brains freak out defensively, and chances are, they will dump everything in the garbage, or everything in the recycling. There is your contamination. At the bin, you want to trigger habits. You need to build those habits elsewhere.
We gave educational booklets. These booklets are very graphic, with very few words. What few words there are translated into several languages.
Each page shows one material. There is a picture of the material, a guide to handling, and the COLOUR AND ICON. This is connecting detailed information to the ICON and COLOUR.
This booklet is designed to sit in the kitchen drawer, for very occasional reference.
Fridge magnets or stickers are good idea. These are NOT PHOTOGRAPHS. Photographs are too detailed for a magnet or a sticker, you need to do that work in the booklet. The sticker or magnet just show green and red, yes or no, and the icons. So they help you remember which material goes in which tote.
And finally, you have brochures, news stories, magazine articles, TV spots etc. These are the most detailed items, which should still be connecting the material to the ICON AND COLOUR.
So, I had all these materials professionally developed at Metro, and they are mostly free to download. You can contact Peter Cech at Metro Vancouver for a copy of the Blue Book, which we designed to be a PDF that is as drag and drop as possible. The original Illustrator files are also available if you want to do some customization.
You can download much of the signage and sticker files at
Long ramble, hope that helps.
Re: Using Social Marketing to stop Poaching Behaviours?
2015-12-01 17:10:10 UTC
Good points Doug, and you point to what I consider CBSM's greatest strengtha methodology that is built on the analysis of data.
So, poaching is a big a word. We are familiar with the markets in rhino horn, for example. But poaching gorillas for bush meat is done to feed the family, as, I suspect, is poaching deer in here in BC.
Poaching salmon seems like a much bigger financial opportunity, though as I mentioned there are politics and still-developing laws on First Nations rights.
So the benefits of the specific poaching we are talking about matters.
I don't consider programs like Ocean Wise to be a success, and they perfectly illustrate the conclusions of my own work in behaviour:
Dr. Roy Baumeister finds that attention is a physically limited resource. This is supported by Daniel Kahneman's recent book, as well as his work stretching back to the 70s.
So, attention is physically limited, therefore it is finite. Attention is a zero-sum equation, there is only so much of it, and when it is used, it is gone until you sleep, or eat.
Since it is limited, our brains are reluctant to spend it, which makes attention-hungry campaigns like Ocean Wise unlikely to succeed.
Furthermore, Ocean Wise ends up in competition with every other issuerefugees, domestic violence, carcinogens, conservation, economics, etc etc etc.
This makes it harder for truly important issues to succeedthey must compete with every teeny little issue sucking away at our attention.
So, changing the system that shapes our behaviour will always be the most effective thing to do. Only when that works should we look at social and attention-demanding campaigns.
Obviously changing the system is hard, and so we typically immediately give up, and go back to making brochures and collecting pledges. For the reasons above, that is often doomed to fail.
I think it would often be better if we did nothing at all, and spared the attention for truly jugular issues.
And, when you can change the system, it is impressive. My team increased the recycling rate at a very large pilot site by 250%.
Re: Using Social Marketing to stop Poaching Behaviours?
2015-12-01 15:57:37 UTC
Thanks for your comment, Doug.
I am fairly familiar with CBSM, and used it as the springboard for my research into behaviour.
IN GENERAL, the biggest challenge CBSM faces is that it is very attention-demanding, and getting attention is a very difficult task.
As you will know, in every campaign there are outliers that are not affected by the strategy. Poachers are the outliers, and it will be very, very difficult to get at them.
So yes, you can figure out the barriers and benefitsif you can find a representative group of poachers to study. Good luck getting them to admit to poaching. But then what? The whole point of poaching is to be unknown.
How will you deliver a program to them? Especially, what are the chances of delivering a successful program within a realistic budget? I don't think the main tools of CBSM will be very useful.
Re: Using Social Marketing to stop Poaching Behaviours?
2015-11-24 11:57:05 UTC
I would not think CBSM would work very well.
There is not a lack of information about how bad poaching is, it is well understood, so information and education is not needed.
And, prompts arent necessary, because nobody is forgetting anything.
Social norms might help, but I still doubt it because:
the fact poaching is illegal is a very strong normative message, and they are already violating that norm.
at least in BC, poaching etc. is strongly frowned upon by the hunting community (pro-hunter conservation groups, magazines etc), so poachers are already violating that norm.
norms are about flocking behaviour, so the density of people is very, very important. If two people hunt together and they are both happy to shoot an animal out of season, there is no way to introduce a norm to them. And, there arent really that many big social events where you could talk about the norms of hunting.
Furthermore, there are politics in the issue. First Nations have the right to harvest for food, and to sell that harvest in many cases. This outrages many hunters, who may poach in "protest.
You could try to boost the visibility of hotlines to report poaching, and increase random spot checks by conservation officers. I dont think CBSM would be very effective.
Re: Carts at fourplexes
2014-06-29 12:56:49 UTC
I did pilot projects at two large townhouses and several apartment buildings in Metro Vancouver. The thing that was universal is that THERE WAS NEVER ENOUGH VOLUME.
Metro Vancouver's goal is to divert 70% from garbage, and yet over and over again, 90% of the volume was for garbage and 10% was for recycling.
It does not matter how much signage, how many brochures, how many Recycling Captains or community groups or bylaw officers you have, if you only give them 10% of the space, you will capture at most 15% of the materials.
People want to recycle. They want to do the right thing. Very few people are sociopaths. If you give them a system that works FOR PEOPLE, they will use it. You can see we would get 15% of the material in only 10% of the space--people were really jamming it in.
(I emphasize the system must work for the people, because almost all of our systems are built to work for the recycling trucks, or the materials sales, or the bulldozers, or the incinerators. These mechanical systems should serve the residents, not the other way around. Unless you want to fail, that is.)
Shifting the space also sends strong social signals--nothing says reduce your garbage like a giant recycling bin and a small garbage can.
Because of the very space constraints you mention, we experimented with common bins, especially for cardboard. This was very easy in townhouses, but we also saw some good results by just dropping one in an alley for everybody to use.
We thought it was best to calculate tote and dumpster needs by the number of bedrooms--that gives a better sense of how many people are actually using the system.
So, say at a townhouse complex, in each little cul-de-sac, we had a garbage dumpster, a dumpster for cardboard, centralized totes for food and yard scraps, and a big blue tote shared between two units.
The absolute least I would recommend is a 96 gallon tote for every 14 bedrooms. That is AFTER you have cardboard, food scraps and garbage containers in place. If you are going to expect people to fit their cardboard in a blue tote, you should probably double the totes.
As a side note, to emphasize the fact that people CAN NOT recycled if you do not give them the space --take a look at Maple Ridge. They are far and away the most impressive system in the Lower Mainland, and probably in most of North America. They have six recycling streams, all colour coded. If your tote fills up, you can give them a call and they will come empty it.
They know you need space in your tote in order to recycle. This is the only jurisdiction I have ever seen that TRULY acts like they want you to recycle.
Re: System Thinking
2014-06-03 19:24:45 UTC
I am not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I gave a presentation entitled "Compassionate Systemsbehaviour change and invasive species" at the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia's forum in January 2013.
You can listen to the slidecast at http://www.smallanddeliciouslife.com/compassionate-systems-behaviour-change-and-invasive-species-slide-cast/
Re: Community of Practice
2014-04-16 11:48:53 UTC
I don't have anything to offer regarding communities of practice, but I thought you might be interested in this slidecast of my talk on Compassionate systems, behaviour change, and invasive species.
Re: MF Recycling Best Practices (Education)
2014-04-05 23:42:38 UTC
Metro Vancouver developed an enormous amount of material for multifamily. We developed an entire icon set, a set of photographs, signage that uses the above, and a how-to booklet called the Blue Book.
Most of that is available free to download from the resources page of metrovancouver.org. For the Blue Book--which is dozens of professionally designed pages you can mix and match to suit your needs--you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Blue Book is deigned to be graphic-heavy and text-light, so it keeps messages simple and easy to consume, and also works for populations that do not have English as a first language. Again, this is all free, and hundreds of hours of work have been put into it.
All that being said, I think everyone should get a Blue Book, but I don't know that it really matters. When you look at garbage composition, the biggest stream is food scraps, and the second biggest is newspaper.
So, if you aren't collecting food scraps, no education is needed. If you are--well Metro has full and free resources for food scraps recycling as well.
And I challenge anybody to find me someone who doesn't know that you should recycle newspaper.
Education is not the problem. The barriers are elsewhere.
I looked at dozens of multifamily sites. Even though Metro's target is 70% diversion from landfill, 90% of the volume was devoted to garbage. Well, you can't fit 70% of the material into 10% of the space. That is just impossible.
So, at one of my test sites we took 200 townhouses from 8% diversion to 35% diversion, and we did it primarily by increasing their access--we gave them many more blue totes, green bins and cardboard dumpsters. Education was very minor, and I believe, mostly a token act.
I would be happy to talk further with you about this, but please do check out all of the resources Metro is sharing.
Re: Office Service Ware Best Practices
2014-03-28 12:25:51 UTC
Pamela makes great comments. My old office had rotating responsibility for taking out the compost--to a composter on a roof deck.
And she also makes great points about the social dynamics. I call the worry about people not doing their dishes, or losing dishes--or all that kind of worry--the "Expectation of Betrayal". This expectation is a terribly limiting thing in our world.
The fact is, the big broad brush solutions have all been done, and have reached their maximum payback. We are on to the smaller, more detailed, more costly solutions--those are harder to implement, and always have greater aspects of "failure". Try not to look at it as betrayal, but just as normal.
But our society has tended to choose the wrong response to this: In the face of people not washing their dishes, we have demanded perfection of a sort, and so we bought disposables, and threw everything away, every meal. A child trips on a playground, and so we put safety rails everywhere, and children never learn their limits.
Instead of this, we need to just love the imperfections of this imperfect world.
As Pamela said, dishes don't need to match. But if you want them to match, a trip to a good thrift shop will net you sets and sets of Corelle plates. In my city, they sell for 25 cents each, which is the same price as ONE styrofoam clamshell container.
So, just go buy a bunch of plates and bowls and cutlery. Look for free cutlery sets on Craigslist. I like used stuff, but you can watch for sales at IKEA.
And when too many walk away, just stop by the thrift shop again, and don't worry about it. I used to own a restaurant, and we used the customized mugs with people's pictures on them. We would find them at the thrift shop, and they became kind of a thing at our café.
For people like us that are working in the world of garbage all the time, losing plates and cutlery can seem huge. You might be tempted to do the Life Cycle Analysis of thrift store plates versus paper plates. I think this is a bad idea.
I think we need to worry less about now, and think more of the future. Paper plates are wasteful and unsustainable. That means in the future, we will NOT use them.
Sure, losing ceramic plates isn't very sustainable, and you may worry about the hot water of washing dishes. But in the future we WILL be using ceramic plates, and we will be washing them. How we arrange that may look different from how we arrange our office kitchenette now, but we will be washing real plates.
So, I prefer to try to work with what might be sustainable in the future, rather than what is less bad, but unsustainable now.
Re: Disposable Feminine Products versus Menstrual Cups
2014-03-24 18:50:56 UTC
Margaret has really hit the complexity of this issue, and all waste issues, and all environmental issues.
If you are crazy about garbage, you can probably overcome discomfort with your body.
But if you aren't crazy about garbage, discomfort with your body, or "ick factor" or whatever story seems reasonable will be good enough.
So, the question is, is there a narrative that will make people crazy about garbage.
Or, is there a narrative that is more powerful than garbage--toxic shock, chemicals, international megacorps, DIY self-sufficiency, cost savings, etc.
I actually think all those narratives are good for their segment, and none of them them are good for all segments--which is pretty much the story of our life in pro-environmental behaviour change.
So, is there a way to tell this story that allows many of those narratives to be rolled into one? Certainly, chemicals, megacorps, DIY, and cost saving would play nicely together, with a bonus of reducing garbage.