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Updated 22 May: A really big reminder to recycle

Labels on packaged goods rarely include a noticeable reminder to recycle. We might be able to remind people to recycle more (and generate behavioural change) by including a large reminder on the side of the bottle. These labels will tap into visual recycling cues (colours and symbols) already used within that community so that they will have maximum impact. Updated: Uploaded file with some brainstorming on how to engage people for recycle more

Photo of Jes Simson
19 23

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Explain your idea in one sentence

Including large visual reminders to recycle on the labels of packaged goods.
The problem - a lack of triggers

Packaged goods rarely include a visible reminder to recycle.  The symbol is often so small that it gets lost amongst barcodes, ingredients and company information.  Embossed symbols on the plastic are really difficult to see.  The symbol is so universal and mundane that it is easy to over look and forget.  

Including visual recycling cues on packaginging

We might be able to change behaviour by including a really big reminder to recycle on the label. Given that labels are usually plastered with a company's logo and product name, this should stick out really well. 

Use colour triggers and symbols that match current recycling habits and triggers within that area - using a yellow background might be appropriate in Australia because plastic bottles tend to be recycled in yellow lidded bins in Australia.  

Hopefully these labels will trigger wider domestic recycling.  By using the labels on everyday products that are used throughout the house it is hoped that they will provide an ongoing visual reminder to recycle other products too. 

Include a why? - eg: "... or 1000 years in landfill"

I've included a reason why you should recycle on the label to try and help people engage with why they should recycle.  If people engage with the 'why' more, then they are more likely to change their behaviour.  

In this case, I've inlcuded a negative why:  "Recycle or 1000 years in landfill".  However, the reason could be positive or negative.  

Negative reasons will probably have more short term impact, but people may become desensitised after an initial period.   Positive reasons may have more long term impact. 

Increasing knowledge

By clearly communicating the fact that a product can be recycled, these labels also aim to increase knowledge about what can and can't be recycled.  
 

Describe how your idea would help form new habits and improve recycling at home

By tapping into visual cues associated with recycling, these labels aim to trigger recycling behaviour. Most communities have colours and symbols they associate with certain types of recycling - so piggyback off these existing visual cues to encourage behavioural change.

How might you design an early, lightweight experiment to further develop your idea?

It's pretty easy to design a couple of labels (with different colour or symbolic cues / different negative or positive reasons). However, it's going to be really difficult to work out which labels (if any) actually lead to behavioural change. If anybody's got any ideas on how to work this out, that would be fantastic.

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Photo of Congmin Liang
Team

It is a true thing that we need to focus on in our lives. To have a noticeable reminder to recycle is a big thing to allow people to do the recycling. "We might be able to remind people to recycle more (and generate behavioural change) by including a large reminder on the side of the bottle. These labels will tap into visual recycling cues (colors and symbols) already used within that community so that they will have maximum impact." It is very important for us and make a huge impact to have a noticeable reminder on the bottle or can.

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Photo of Congmin Liang
Team

I like your picture that has a nice reminder of recycle. And I think all the companies need to do it on the bottles and cans. Usually they mark the recycling noticeable reminder under the bottle or inside the bottle cap, but it is not that easy to let people find the mark. So if they do the noticeable reminder like what you did on the bottle, it will help a lot and let more people willing to do the recycling. Great idea!

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Congmin for the feedback!

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Photo of Colin Willox
Team

Jes, this immediately reminded me of the packaging for cigarette boxes in Canada. When I was younger, I remember they sold the boxes behind the counter at stores, with small warning lables on them.

Fast forward to the present day, and they now hide the boxes under the counter (you need to ask for them) and almost the entire package is a warning label. The company barely has real estate to put any branding on the thing.

Of course, this is all an attempt by the government to curb cigarette use. And clearly, higher taxes have helped reduce cigarette purchases across the country (a friend worked for the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project run in Waterloo, ON). Labels are only part of the equation.

Which brings me to my point! Why not approach this from a policy level? Lobby for larger recycling labels on recyclable products, and perhaps it could move in the direction of where Canadian cigarette boxes are today. Of course, try to use something positive instead of negative.

Here's an example to get you in the mood: http://wpmedia.o.canada.com/2012/11/tobacco-labels-1.jpg

I believe Australia has very similar laws.

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Colin. This is a really interesting point. In Australia, anecdotal evidence suggests that plain packaging really works (Australian laws mandate the pack's colour (a colour that makes the packaging less attractive), give a selection of images that will put you off smoking, mandatory warnings and the company cannot use it's logo (the name is written on the pack in the same typeface as every other brand). Like Canada, packs cannot be displayed in stores - they have to be behind a curtain or door.

Check out http://www.pearlfisher.com/live-item/roryfeganbbcradio/ for an interesting discussion.

While I think that this is a fantastic initiative, the Australian government had to fight tooth and nail to get this through the courts (cigarette companies fought them on a number of points all the way to the High Court). It could be an interesting route to go down - however, I really think that brands need to embrace this (and make it their own and really engage their consumers) rather than be dragged kicking and screaming to change their product if it is going to be successful. Brands are also in a much better position to get this done quickly - it takes a long time to lobby and enact new laws (if plain packaging is anything to go by). I would really appreciate your thoughts on this point.

I also agree that a positive message will probably be more powerful and empowering than a negative message, especially where you are trying to change behaviour.

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Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

The reason why I am attracted to your idea is because it is a radical mirror that you put in people their face. With an issue this big this is often the first step to take to create awareness about the issue.

The practical implementation of your idea is a little bit rough as Maren Petry points out but I do believe the packaging of the product can benefit from more specific information regarding recycling issues.

You might want to rethink the message you want to present on the packaging. There might be a (better) way to give information about the specific purpose this bottle might have by recycling it.

The idea you propose on the color matching the bins is useful and makes it easier to know where to recycle but still leaves a why.

I think you can still improve this idea by creating awareness on the packaging through visual triggers that inform the user about the reasons to recycle and what the outcome of this might be.

Hope you can use my comments ;)

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Sebastiaan thanks for your feedback. I agree that there are better ways to design the information on the label to include the benefits (eg: this bottle could become a sleeping bag, jacket, chair etc). Have you got any ideas about what kinds of messages would engage you better?

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Photo of Leigh Cullen
Team

Love this idea Jes. Agree 100% with you that recycling info on product packaging is too small, boring & obscure/inconsistent. Making it large, clear, more engaging/better designed, and possibly employing humor (vs a negative) would be attention grabbing.

Think this would be a two part process & both are pretty big endeavors: 1) define a clear and consistent set of universal recycling symbols/language & 2) convince companies to integrate sustainability into their mission (and then layer engaging messaging into brand)

Clarifying recycling messaging on packaging would aid consumers in figuring out more than just that the product is recyclable or that it's made up of recycled content. It could guide a consumer how to dispose of it – possibly where/how to recycle it, or even where to get more info on how to recycle it. Did a quick Google search, and came across this article on students in the UK calling for clearer recycling messaging on packaging.–Granted it’s a 2011 article, but I have a feeling it's still a pervasive issue:
www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/students-call-for-clearer-recycling-messages-on-packaging/

I think Maren is correct in her assessment that it may be difficult to convince companies to relinquish packaging real estate for recycling info due to advertising and nutrition must-haves. But, there's a movement afoot where big-name companies are trying to maximize brand sustainability/"greener" products. If a clear/universal set of recycling symbols (and instructions) is developed, it may not be difficult to get those companies to integrate it into brand...

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi Jes,
I think you brought two very good ideas forward. Unfortunately it can be assumed that the concept of a lot larger recycle signs might be challenging to implement in practice. Companies have the requirement to put nutrition, ingredient and origin information on the packaging and I think it is difficult convince companies to reduce their product and brand name as well as general product information in order to make more space for the recycling sign. Furthermore, there are other parties as well who are also competing for more space on packaging. For example in Germany people are discussing the possibility of a traffic light rating system for food labelling. The idea is to show at a glance how healthy the product is, to make it easier for the consumer to identify less healthy foods and beverages more easily.
The second idea of including the reason of recycling I think is innovative and excellent. It would just need a bit more space on the packaging and is therefore more likely to be accepted by companies. Furthermore I think the educational aspect is inventive. In this project concerning recycling, the issue of educating people in terms of why to recycle is discussed a lot. With your idea the education would start already right at the product. I think both ways, giving a positive reason why people should recycle as well as a negative reason how not recycling would harm the environment, are both good and informative ways.

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thank you for your feed back Maren. I completely agree that it's going to be really difficult to sell this idea to companies. The recycling symbol takes up a large chunk of prime branding real-estate (that's probably why it's so small on all the bottles you find).

It might be interesting to approach incentives from another perspective - eg: sell it in as a something that stretches and furthers their brand (through engaging people / branding the tone of voice that asks people to recycle) / builds their brand around corporate social responsibility or sustainability. Given that the logo will be really big - it could cut through quite well (as I think a lot of people are really bored by bottle recycling labels) and may provide big brand benefits for the early adopters. Maybe we just need to think about the benefits that companies (and their brand and profile) could get from using their label for this purpose?

Thanks for your feedback on the educate aspect of the label - I'm currently working on some more prototypes that I hope to upload over the weekend.

I actually really like the traffic light labelling system and wonder if it could work to indicate how easy it is to recycle materials? Australia tried to introduce a similar concept, but failed to get everyone on board about how you would judge the nutritional value of food.

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

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Photo of Kaye Han
Team

Jes, this is an simple yet potentially very effective idea. The main hurdle will be how to get companies to participate in branding their products in this way - which I assume will need a huge amount of convincing. If there is a 'really big reminder' on all soft-drink bottles, it will certainly have a strange effect on product differentiation. I like the point you brought up regarding colour, that's certainly the simplest and easiest way to get the idea across. I put up my idea as well, would love to hear some of your feedback! :)

http://www.openideo.com/challenge/recycle-challenge/ideas/less-is-more

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Rob! Yes, using precious label space for recycling contact will be a hard sell. Maybe you could use it as a brand differentiator where a brand has products in lots of different household categories - that way it builds brand is a positive way and feeds in to the companies CSR efforts?

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Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

That's a good point Jes! I had a "Manufacturing Materials" class last year and I know almost every material but as there is no reminder on products that reminds me, I forget and throw materials in wrong trash! I totally agree with Rob, colour would be the best way to get the idea across and convince companies.

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Alper - I think everyone struggles with this from time to time. Have you got any ideas about how the labels could enable you to recycle more? What kinds of messages would help you change your behaviour? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

I personally like the messages on Starbucks coffe cup sleeves. When realize I use a recycled product like these sleeves, I immediately see the result of recycling and that encourages me to recycle more. After years of exposure to this message, corrugated cardboard has become my favourite recyclable material. Moreover, these messages creates a positive social pressure on people reading them.

http://kirontv.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/starbucks-coffee-cup-sleeve-aizzjzgq.jpg

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Indeed Alper, it's a savvy piece of marketing. ( Though I prefer this option which skips the need to recycle altogether: http://www.keepcup.com.au )

Jes – exciting idea & we love your sketch which really brings the idea to life. Looking forward to seeing this idea evolve. Could be worth popping in to a supermarket or chatting to a brand if you can track one down to get their feedback on your idea. They may have feedback which could spark creative iterations. Keep building!

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Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

I also wonder whether you might engage in some sideways thinking about various places that stickers / signs like this could be placed. Having them on actual products is awesome – but perhaps it could also be good to think about alternate places which messaging like this could nudge optimal behaviour?

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Thanks Alper and Meena - fantastic suggestions.

Alper, I really like the Starbucks suggestion, I haven't seen it before. This is a great way to reinforce behaviour as it shows people what you can make by recycling as well as encouraging you to recycle. I wonder if it would have greater impact if it was more visual?

Meena - As a Melbourne girl, I have a massive soft spot for keep cups - they are doing incredible things. I think there are a whole range of places where you could include messages to engage people. Thanks for the prototyping tips - I'll update this post when I've bashed out a few more label iterations.