A Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) funded study insists that design principles in the home are as important as behavioural change in encouraging European consumers to recycle more.
The study led by Stewart Barr at the University of Exeter also found that recycling at home is rarely a conscious decision, and CCE is now using the study as a basis for crowdsourcing ideas over the next 11 weeks via Open IDEO on how to establish better habits in this sphere.
In 2013 CCE partnered with Barr, who together with colleagues Annabelle Boulay and Alan Metcalfe looked at the role recycling plays in everyday life, by interviewing 20 British and French families.
Joe Frances, CCE director of corporate responsibility and sustainability (who features in the video below) said the company “partnered with academics to discover why people don’t recycle as much as they say they do, or think they do.”
‘Aesthetics are king’ of the home castle
Statistics from Barr et al. show that 76% of British consumers and 75% of French consumers claim to always recycle plastic bottles at home, but recycling rates fall below the European average of 61%.
The researchers found that the journey waste follows through the home is key and “aesthetics are king” with participants arguing that more space is needed to make recycling more viable, and stating an unwillingness to compromise aesthetics at home to make room for a recycling bin.
Dr Stewart Barr, associate professor, University of Exeter, said: “We’re going to have to think about the structure of the places where they live, the design principles in their houses, how recyclables are stored within the house.”
Barr et al. also found that recycling is rarely a conscious decision, with behaviour an instinctive process built into people’s daily lives and time pressure the typical response given by families to the question of why bottles end up in general waste rather than a recycling bin.
Enthusiastic kids trump apathetic teens
“Work to change behaviour should focus on the formation of habits and everyday routines that are innately linked with different household spaces – e.g. the kitchen or bathroom,” they wrote.
The researchers found tensions in homes between ‘recycling champions’ and those who want to ‘get things done’ at home by buying simpler, efficient, pre-packed products.
Barr et al. also cite “confusion and scepticism” within householders about whether recycled product are actually sent to landfill or exported abroad for sorting or reprocessing, and whether certain materials can even be recycled.
In their study , the authors said these issues often lead to apathy, and it also champions children as ‘agents of change’ to spur better recycling habit rather than teenagers, who they said showed apathy.
Using these insights, CCE is calling for “habit breakers and change makers” to contribute via the Open IDEO crowd-sourcing project ; partners include French retailer Groupe Casino, P&G and Rexam.