I’m guessing, based on where you found this article, that you’re already ‘environmentally awake’. You’re one of the choir singing from the same environmental hymn book.
You may have your vegies growing in the back yard or balcony pots; sign petitions; try to reduce the packaging that you bring your goods home in; have reusable shopping bags instead of plastic and say ‘no’ to micro-plastics and palm oil in your products. In fact, you try to shop ethically for a number of reasons where possible; may even belong to a community group that works on bush or beach care; actively lobby your local council when you disagree with losses of habitat and environmental destruction; have solar on the roof and a rainwater tank at the back, and if you can’t, you wish you could. You try to live in harmony with nature and you support renewables. Another thing you do regularly? Is recycle.
I have an affinity with you, and I find that due to my own value systems pretty much all my friends, and some of my family (that are on Facebook at least) show me they have similar values as well. It’s easy to live in this bubble of thinking that everyone agrees with me, and together we’re changing the world through every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ but let’s face it, we all have those in our circles who don’t, and because of this you probably share a similar frustration.
Do you ever wonder why? I do.
Let’s take recycling for example. A simple thing really. And while recycling can cover a broad range of materials, let’s just look at general household waste.
We have labels on our yellow bin lids telling us what can go into those bins and what can’t and yet, I’m sure (especially if you live in a unit or townhouse block where you need to sometimes ‘share’ these bins as I do), you will come across abuse of these bins nearly every day. The worst is when someone moves out and they run out of room in their normal rubbish bin and then just dump non-recyclable objects of any kind into these bins to over-flowing and just leave it for the rest of us to deal with. The other common mistake I see dumped into these bins are supermarket plastic bags containing items for recycling. Plastic bags in these bins is not acceptable.
So why does this happen?
Do they just not understand or are misinformed? Are they disorganised? Is it ignorance? Do they just not care? Is it laziness? Or a combination of some or all of these things? If you are a responsible recycler and have also witnessed this kind of thing, what did you do about it? Have you ever confronted a person about their recycling habits? Or did you decide to just ‘mind your own business’, because you’re not comfortable with confrontation and hoped someone else would do it?
I started to think about this in the same way those who campaign for anti-bullying or anti-violence do, in that while we may be ‘doing the right thing’ ourselves, we are in effect enabling the problem by not confronting or intervening with those who don’t. Surely, there has to be a non-confrontational safe way to address this with our families, neighbours, workplaces and friends?
During National Recycling Week, I decided to do some research into why people don’t recycle and I came across a great article by Ronnie Citron-Fink of Care2 who looked at the top 5 reasons people don’t recycle. The reasons may or may not surprise you.
Please avail yourself to Ronnie’s article for the full details however, in review the responses were:
- Recycling is inconvenient.
- I do not have enough space in my home to recycle.
- If they paid me, I’d recycle.
- Recycling doesn’t make a difference. So why do it?
- It is just too hard to do.
Ronnie obviously also gives the 5 counter arguments for why people ‘should’ recycle, which may be useful if you want to raise the subject (in a non-confrontational way) with those who don’t being:
- Recycling saves energy.
- Recycling reduces landfills.
- Recycling preserves our resources and protects wildlife.
- Recycling is good for the economy.
- Recycling helps our climate problems.
That said. Perhaps a simple answer to help ‘avoid’ confrontation in the first instance, would be for all bins to not only have a label on them saying what ‘can’ go into the bins, but perhaps alongside those labels another which incentivises stating those 5 reasons?
On a brighter note, I’m looking forward to seeing how well the ‘Cash for Containers’ scheme will work when it becomes implemented in 2018. A scheme spearheaded back in September 2015 by Toby Hutcheon of Boomerang Alliance and which, with a final push in conjunction with other local community groups (including Gecko) earlier this year, finally won the approval of the Queensland State Government (refer Cash for Containers, It’s just Common Cents!).
It should at least appeal to those who say ‘if they paid me I’d recycle.’
Shame we have to give a financial incentive though isn’t it? Especially when the alternative to voluntary participation means the whole planet, including the humans that rely on it, will ultimately pay in the long run.
According to PlanetArk: “Australia is currently ranked in 13th place on the OECD Recycling Ranking. That’s behind countries such as Germany, South Korea and Britain, yet ahead of countries such as France, the USA and Canada.”
Fellow Aussie recyclers, we can do better than that! It’s time to get our friends on board as well. To help get them started, why not share this PlanetArk video with your friends, then follow this PlanetArk link to find events on how you can get involved in National Recycling Week, 7 – 13 November, 2016?
As for you dear reader?
Thank you for being a fellow recycler!
Cropped Close up of unsorted rubbish: Meineresterampe via pixabay.com CC0
Protest sign ‘climate were a bank’: niekverlaan via pixabay.com CC0
Graphic: red thumb covered in hearts: geralt via pixabay.com CC0
Recycling Bins: ©a.millerdavis2016 All rights reserved
Graphic: aarrghh: pretty sleepy via pixabay.com CC0
Shopping Trolley of Rubbish in bushland: coombsey via pixabay.com CC0
Skip bin of unsorted rubbish: Nathanza via pixabay.com CC0
Heavy Mover with Landfill: Prylarer via pixabay.com CC0
Cash 4 Containers Photo: ©Boomerang Alliance All rights reserved
Planet Ark NRW 2016 Poster: PlanetArk media pack
*This article also features on Hills to Headlands, for Gecko – Gold Coast & Hinterland Environment Council.