How policymakers can encourage waste source separation

Encouraging source separation is never easy; here are six steps policymakers can take

Ensuring convenience

If source separation is not relatively easy, people are much less likely to participate.

Keeping things simple

Having more source separation categories has the benefit of allowing for more recycling opportunities. However, more categories could potentially be confusing. Categories need to be clear, intuitive and easy to understand. Effectively using graphics and colours can help to ensure messages are clearly communicated to everyone, regardless of age, language or background.

Make it mandatory

In society, everyone participates with certain rules and signals for the good of all – a clear example being the use of taxes to fund healthcare, education and welfare provision. Source separation of discards should be mandatory.

Persistence, vision and strategy

Participation rates in source separation will probably not be high overnight. It is important to be patient and give the new system time to be established. It should be made crystal clear that source separation is here to stay so people see the benefit taking the time to learn about how to properly separate discards. As participation rates increase, communications campaigns should be continued so to avoid complacency and keep momentum strong.

Recognising success stories

Incentives and awards can be very effective. These include “pay as you throw” systems, stickers to put in doors and windows saying “we separate our discards”. There could also be economic prizes for those whose bins contain the right materials or free compost to people who separate organic material.

Warnings, fines and penalties

Leaving warning notes with suggestions as to how to improve separation, and issuing fines and penalties can also help when other strategies are not enough.

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