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Our Four barriers to recycling at home

Having been discussing the idea of this challenge for the last 18 months, I have been conscious of how we recycle. It's also how long we've lived in our current home. Here's the things I've noticed over that time about the barriers we have to better recycling.

Photo of Nathan Waterhouse
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Our barriers to better recycling as a family
  1. Family agreement. Between my wife and I, we passionately believe in the cause to recycle better, but unfortauntely other values inhibit our progress e.g. we don't compost because it's just another thing to do, plus it's smelly.
  2. Aesthetics vs Sustainbility. Our bin system just isn't particularly inviting. Both our own bins inside and the ones the council provide aren't very easy to use, nor nice to handle. I keep wondering 'How could we design a more user friendly bin system?' 
  3. Packaging is confusing. Blended packaging still confuses me. If it's cardboard plus plastic, do I need to separate them? If it's a silvery lined plastic container is that ok? Tetrapac's milk cartons? 
  4. Conflicting priorities. When we're juggling both our boys and managing busy schedules, priorities shift. How can we make it more tangible to people that each and every action counts, especially when there's scarce headspace to think long term?
During this challenge I'm going to try and make some small changes to our system and I hope to share back with some (more attractive at least) photos of my progress. What's your system for recycling? What works and what doesn't for you?



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Photo of Meena Kadri

Loving the honest reflections on this, Nathan. I'm going to have a think about what some of the barriers for me are too.

Tip on keeping your compost less smelly: If you're keeping a smaller bucket / container inside under your sink, always put some ripped up paper + cardboard in the bottom when you start (I keep a bag of paper / cardboard closely to use for this) It'll stop your compost container smelling as it absorbs moisture which usually causes the smell. Don't add protein – that's usually going to go smelly fast. When you add to your outside compost bin, turn the contents every time you top it up. All in all – this should keep your composting efforts smelling sweet :^)

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I really enjoyed reading this post, the points your raise are all clear and easy for us all to relate to, whether its living in a family unit or a mix of people in a house share like myself the issues are very similar.

My post raises similar points to yours, recycling at home firstly needs to be easy, the recycling and bin system needs to be designed to fit in to a family's life style and work in harmony with the people using it, secondly the messaging around what can and cannot be recycled needs to be clear and understandable on a basic level, it also needs to relate to the waste arising in the home.

I've worked in the recycling industry for a number of years now and carried out more recycling assessments on material arising in recycling bins than I care to remember. The point you raised about packaging comprising of a number of materials in different formats being confusing when it comes to if it should be recycled is an issue I have seen time and time again (its also a question I have been asked many times as well). Messaging is an important factor when looking to collect the correct material, for example a recycling bin that is messaged to collect "cans and plastic bottles only" will on the whole collect cans and plastic bottles only with very little contamination, if however the messaging reads "mixed recyclables" or does not clearly state a packing type then everything tends to end up thrown in as most items of packaging contain at least one material that is recyclable regardless of it being attached or merged with anther material type.

My house mate's class me as a guru when it comes to recycling knowledge, at home I am often asked the question of "what do I do with this as it has xxxx material and yyyy material", sometimes I have no answer for them and that is when you can see they loose faith (if only a little) in recycling as it's added effort, this relates back to my point on it needing to be easy and take only a few seconds or the care is lost.

Photo of Nathan Waterhouse

Thanks Luke! Great comments. Maybe you could build them into an idea or two and post them in the Ideas Phase.

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