Recent uptake in recycling is an example that shows it is possible to persuade people to change their behaviour

Summary of the claim

Recycling has gone from being a niche concern to a mainstream activity in the past decade or so. If people can be persuaded to recycle in such a time frame, they can be persuaded to cycle also.

Example sources

Summary of responses

In more detail

Recycling has been possible for those who wished to do it for the past few decades, but it required individuals to think about their domestic waste and make a conscious effort, electing to take their waste to centralised recycling facilities. However, the more destructive option of not recycling recyclable waste was the default choice for most people as it was more convenient and easy as it didn’t involve a conscious change to their behaviour. Most people didn’t particularly care about the issue of recycling and thought nothing of throwing all of their domestic waste out in the same bin. However, within less than twenty years, recycling went from a minority concern to a fact of life; nowadays almost everyone recycles the majority of their recyclable domestic waste.

The cause of recycling has not become a mainstream concern in that time, generally people devote little though to recycling or the issues surrounding the disposal and handling of domestic waste. Instead, recycling has become normal because it has been made into the most easy and convenient option; the natural choice. Rather than continuing to promote elective behavioural change to increase recycling rates, councils have changed the waste collection infrastructure to make recycling a natural choice for everyone. Separate bin facilities are provided for different sorts of waste, often different categories of recyclable waste in addition to a general waste bin for non-recyclable material. Those choosing not to separate waste so it can be recycled are inconvenienced by the reduction in capacity for disposal of general waste through reducing the frequency of general waste collections. Overall capacity is maintained or improved through additional collections for recyclable waste, making recycling a convenient and attractive option. Mass recycling was brought about not through elective behaviour change but through subtle coercion; changes in the waste collection infrastructure were made so that recycling became attractive and convenient, whilst not recycling became a less attractive and less viable option.


1 Chester Cycling – Cycling: Lessons from Recycling