Bin Behaviours

I travelled to North America earlier this year, and amongst the tourist photos of Niagara Falls and the Golden Gate Bridge, are photographs of public rubbish receptacles. I was fascinated by the various levels of recycling available to innocent members of the public. For example; Yosemite was advanced and educational, Toronto was efficient and included paper! Some other places had yet to discover the joys of recycling. San Francisco surprised with dual receptacles in the hotel room and corn starch bottled shampoo. Leaving the hybrid taxis behind to head east, one discovered elements of ‘the throwaway society’ that America is renowned for, further away from the main cities.

At home we have three bins, cleared by the local council. Landfill, garden waste and recycling (paper, cardboard & plastics). Add to that one more, organics, composted by yours truly in the garden.

So, why am I writing about waste and recycling? Well moving from the social to the business perspective, at work we have one bin, and trying to introduce the three that people experience at home can be challenging. Why is it – remarked one of my work colleagues – that we leave our recycling behaviours at home when we come to work? A darn good question! One I don’t have an answer to, yet, but I think is connected to my travelling experience. Different values in different places. Barriers such as perceived and actual costs, and logistics issues – who is collecting or emptying your bins can be a real issue.

I read an article recently about a multinational that had seven, yes seven, recycling options. The culture there had advanced to such an extent, that no one wanted to be the person placing something in the landfill bin! So my workplace culture, like many out there, has some way to go yet, but one has to start somewhere. The important thing is that we have started. I think a key benefit from establishing recycling ‘bin behaviour’ in the workplace is how the culture of ‘waste not’ moves from the local bin to core business practice. If we had a seven bin culture in the workplace, just think how that would extend into our work practices and what value to the bottom line that might add. How are those perceived or even real costs looking to you now?

While writing this, I am waiting for my flight in Avalon Airport (a small regional airport 55km from Melbourne). I was approached by a young woman wanting to survey me on my travel habits and question me on improvements for the airport. As I gazed at the plentiful, oversize waste bins, I suggested that Avalon would be much improved with some recycling bins………

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