OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

When labels don't work...

I am not very educated around recycling issues. And I realized that when waste recycling labels get too complicated, I tend to trust the behaviors of my peers, by mimicking which bin they have used to dispose of something.

Photo of Sarah Fathallah
14 11

Written by

We have quite a complicated recycling chart in my office, detailing where each item should be disposed of. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have never spent more than a few seconds trying to decipher it, before giving up... And peeking inside the trash bins to see where other people have put in what. Do I see lots of paper napkins? That's where I will throw my paper napkin.

What other things have you observed that would make recycling labeling easier to digest? What are some of the things that do not make sense to have to avoid information overload?


Dans mon bureau il y a un diagramme de recyclage plutôt compliqué détaillant où chaque élément doit être jeté. Malheureusement, je dois admettre que je n'ai jamais passé plus de quelques secondes à essayer de le déchiffrer, avant jeter l'éponge... Et finalement regarder à l'intérieur des poubelles pour voir ce que les personnes avant moi y ont mis. Est-ce que je vois beaucoup de serviettes en papier ? C'est probablement bien là que je vais jeter ma serviette en papier.

Quelles sont les pratiques que vous avez pu observer qui rendent la signalétique autour du recyclage plus facile à digérer ? Quelles sont les choses à éviter pour ne pas avoir de surcharge d'information ?


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Interesting point. Here are some of my thoughts on this topic.

There are two perspectives to see the labelling from.
1) On the one hand it is on products, to hint on whether or not and how to recycle them.
2) On the other the recycling bins have labelling to show what goes in them.

Labelling on products is mostly to specify which material the object is made out of. While it is easy to distinguish aluminium from glas, distinguishing one type of plastic from an other can be difficult.

Interestingly regarding bottles, the type of plastic used relies on whether the content has gas or not. Drinks with gas (eg. Coke) need to be in PET bottles, drinks without gas (water) can be kept in PP bottles. If a regular person were to sort out plastic bottles, having categories such as "gas" or "no gas" may easier to relate to than technical terminology.

Labelling on recycling bins most likely takes place to ensure recyclability.
For instance thermoset plastics cannot be recycled. This will always be noted on a recycling bin for plastics, although it is very unlikely that a such material will end up there. The reason is that packaging is not made from such materials.

View all comments