The biggest challenge I face in implementing recycling programs at office buildings is getting employees to change their behavior. Assuming all the bins are in place, everything is labeled and we’ve done our job at educating people as to what goes where, I still find that 1) people are lazy, 2) people are skeptical, or 3) People don’t care.
Lazy. There’s only so much you can do to accommodate employees. The ‘easiest’ deskside set-up is two bins: one for recyclables (blue) and one for trash (black). You don’t have to get out of your seat to discard anything. However, all too often I find paper going in the trash bin or the blue bin isn’t used at all.
Other types of programs where employees have only one bin at their desk and they are responsible for taking either paper or trash to a central area, the most common gripe we get is “you expect me to get up and walk with my trash (or paper)!?” You get up to go to the bathroom, get coffee, get lunch, make copies, gossip with your coworkers, but you can’t get up to take your half full cup of cold coffee and dump it in the sink instead of making a mess at your desk? People don’t have a problem fetching things to bring back to their desk, but can’t fathom making the effort to take things away.
Skeptical. Some people just don’t believe their efforts are doing any good. I hear “The cleaners are mixing,” “it all gets put together in the same truck,” “it all just goes in the trash any way.” It doesn’t matter that I explain the process, or that I have a power point slide show illustrating what happens to your waste from desk-to-landfill. They are non-believers and nothing I say makes a difference. (Usually it is the hard-core, self-proclaimed recyclers that are the most skeptical.)
Don’t care. The people who don’t care are usually the high-level execs that expect to be catered to, or your average worker who is just too busy. Granted, people are busy. I’ve been to some of the largest trading floors where I’m sure billions of dollars of transactions are being monitored or traded (or whatever they do with the multiple screens). I’ve been to high-profile law firms where people work round the clock behind stacks of documents. I’ve been to creative agencies where people are constantly in brain storming sessions. Recycling is a low priority at work for many people.
So, how can I get through to the lazies and skeptics and don’t cares? They are perfectly capable of doing so many other things in their work day, placing their waste in a specific bin should be a no-brainer.
As I continue to look at the real needs to get through to these three types, I want to know your recycling success stories.
How have you changed someone’s behavior and got them to recycle?