I noticed an interesting article on George Mombiot’s Blog on the Guardian website which discusses how taking relatively small actions such as recycling tin cans allow people to overlook the bigger actions such as driving the car when public transport will do!
Recycling everything in the green bin often acts as a green badge of honour for people and in some peoples minds means that they are absolved of other responsibilities. George Mombiot cites an example from a couple of years ago when Tesco’s were offering flights as a reward for recycling energy saving light bulbs.
This leads me on to the topic of waste prevention and trying to communicate this message, whilst recycling is (sometimes) a relatively simple message to communicate (place X,X and X in your green box and it will be collected on Friday morning) waste prevention is a different ball game altogether.
A piece of research recently carried out by Defra indicates that there is no single behaviour which constitutes “waste prevention” and it can range from donating goods to charity, through small reuse behaviours around the home; to activities that involve changes in consumption habits. Furthermore the report states that the “the public seems genuinely confused about what waste prevention means”.
All of this means that communicating information about waste prevention is difficult and attempting to do so can provide mixed messages. Lewisham Council are supporting the WRAP led campaign Love Food Hate Waste which targets one material stream but the impacts of are both
In some cases recycling acts as a barrier to waste prevention – people think they have done enough by recycling something where in truth they should be thinking if they needed to acquire the item in the first place, or have made a decision to buy an item with less packaging.
Whilst there is obvious responsibility with Local Authorities and Governments to deal with a lot of these issues – is it going to take a big change in the publics attitudes to make a real difference and what can a local authority do to influence this?