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How to Get Residents to Take Recycling More Seriously

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. This is entirely true when it comes to poor resident recycling habits. Getting residents out of recycling complacency and towards the realization that there is loads more to learn is a fundamental challenge faced by recycling programs across North America. So to help you nudge your residents out of a state of complacency, here is some savvy strategy:   

  1. shutterstock_139546226_S.jpgComplacency awareness: digital tests and quizzes 

A smart way to get your residents to confront recycling complacency is to direct them to taking a recycling IQ test or quiz. There are loads of quizzes like these online that ask residents to answer questions about anything from yogurt container lids to cell-phone disposal and yard waste. And answering nuanced questions like these, help bring to light tremendous gaps in knowledge and practice, that residents hadn’t realized they’d had.

  1. Tools of engagement

Online games

After making residents aware of their recycling shortcomings, the next step is to engage them with recycling content. One strategic way to go about this is to gamify recycling information. By breaking down the details of your recycling program into entertaining and dynamic online games, your resident audience (both young and old) will find learning about recycling fun.


Because there is no reward or punishment for good or bad recycling behavior, there is thus little incentive to be a better recycler. In a world where many residents are accustomed to high stakes, a seemingly benign everyday task like recycling (with little to no immediate reward), is often not at the top of their priority list.

Additionally, residents have no one to compare themselves to when it comes to recycling behavior, leaving a lack of competition and thus motivation. A good way to engage residents and provide incentive is to lead them to quizzes that provide a leaderboard at the end. These leaderboards can compare your resident’s quiz scores to other residents in their municipality and even to residents who took the same quiz in other cities. Ranking your residents among other people, both near and far, provides them with the context and sense of competition that they need to push them towards learning more.

  1. Contests or award systems

A great way to combat recycling complacency and instigate behavior change in your community is to create recycling contests. Contests like these help create the incentive that is often missing in many recycling programs. As the organizer, you can get your residents to compete against each other, or on the other hand, can get them to collaborate as a cohesive unit, and compete against residents in other areas.

A perfect example of this is the “Cleanest City Contest” run every year by the Louisiana Garden Club Federation. Since 1958, the LGCF has gotten individual towns within Louisiana to compete against each other for the “Cleanest City” prize. Once an individual town wins the “first round” in their district, they then advance to a state-wide competition. Last year, for example, the town of Pearl River, Louisiana ran a campaign with the slogan “Polishing the Pearl” and won first place in their area. State judges then toured the town after an efficient “Trash Bash,” where resident volunteers helped do some last-minute cleaning along the routes that the judges would take. Residents were also encouraged to have manicured lawns, clear of trash and debris, on judging day.

Competitions like these are amazing ways to get the entire community involved in one unanimous recycling effort, while encouraging community pride. And if you can bring corporate sponsors on board and provide impressive prizes to the winners, this only creates more incentive to participate.

There are just a few strategies you can try to get your residents to take recycling more seriously. Which one do you think would work best in your municpality?

Would recycling EdTech be a good fit for your municipality to help residents take recycling more seriously?


logo-green.png About Recycle Coach: Recycle Coach specializes in digital solutions for municipal and private waste management services to effectively educate and engage residents. Our technology platforms for web, mobile, and digital assistants focus on education and encouragement to help residents to be better recyclers, with the goal of inspiring positive and lasting change in communities around the world. It is our constant innovation and scalability of services that allow us to meet the needs of over 3000 communities across the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more.  

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