Can we regain the simplicity of our ancestors?

Early man, like the animals with whom he lived, wasted nothing. Everything was recycled. Recycling is no longer a natural activity of humans. The situation has been made worse in the present linear economy. We are conditioned to consume resources and dispose of the waste generated. Can we go back to our ancestors ways?

Recycling can be learned as shown by the ease with which school children grasp and apply the principles of recycling. In many instances school children now teach their parents, who did not receive recycling training at school. Unfortunately, it appears that once children leave school they forget or no longer practice recycling.

Recycling – once learned – can become a habit. Like all habits it requires a while to establish and thereafter regular practice. Smart Waste can assist; firstly with training and thereafter with strategies to encourage the recycling habit. Eventually this will result in a culture of recycling in the individual and an organization..

In order to be effective recycling must be measured, it must be easy and it must be fun. If the recycling program fails to satisfy these requirements it will ultimately fail in whole or on part.

We can return to our roots and build a habit of recycling

The first principle which Smart Waste addresses is awareness. The basic principle of recycling training is that every individual unavoidably generates waste. Each one of us generates waste through his or her activities, at home, at work and at leisure. Very few activities do not generate waste: be it packaging from goods purchased, food prepared or work and other activities.

We then explain the principle of recycling as opposed to disposing of items as general waste. This includes the benefits to the environment and the savings in resources and costs.

Thereafter Smart Waste teaches that each individual has a choice and a responsibility to exercise it. It is not someone else’s problem to dispose of the waste which each of us generates. The training focuses on how the individual should exercise his or her choice. Firstly we show what materials are recyclable and what is general waste. This usually takes the form of a practical demonstration.

Through strategy, education and responsibility, we can become a recycling global powerhouse!

Smart Waste then teaches that every time an individual has to dispose of an item he or she must exercise the correct choice and place it in one of several bags or containers. These include recyclables: paper, plastic, cardboard, tin, tetra pak and glass. Non recyclables is everything else with the exception of food waste which should be composted or otherwise dealt with.

The awareness and training usually takes about half an hour depending on questions and can be undertaken using electronic media and through practical demonstration. The size of the audience can vary according to the amount of space available and the audience ie senior management versus labourers.

Once recycling is happening it should be measured to see if the campaign is working. This can be done in various ways without the need to weigh items, an estimate is often enough. If a record is kept you can measure how much the general waste – and your costs – are reducing.

In a commercial environment a record assists in identifying underperforming areas which can then be addressed   You can institute a system of rewards and punishment if this fits in with the organizations culture. You can give the rewards to divisions or individuals, which fosters recycling champions. The form of the reward will depend on the company policy and culture. These programs are usually measured on a monthly basis.

Report on and measure your recycling success to show your environmental responsibility reach

If part of an organization you should publish the results of the recycling so that members can see what their efforts achieve, or not. This will lead to more interest and you can use the opportunity to introduce articles and items of interest which strengthen the recycling culture.

Once recycling is learned and accepted it must be practised. Over time the habit becomes part of the organizations culture and requires less training. Refresher training is required from time to time and initial training should be included as part of the induction program for new employees.

To assist in developing a habit of recycling the choice must be simple and easy. There should be both a recyclable and non-recyclable container/s next to each other which are clearly marked. It is also useful to display some signs reminding people what is recyclable and what is not next to the containers.

The type, size and location of the containers can be decided upon by the members. There should be a minimum number per floor, each within easy walking distance and accessible to all. Containers or their lids are usually colour coded to make identification of the recyclable container versus the non-recyclable container easy to identify.

Food scrap containers in the kitchen should have a lid and there should also be a non-recyclable container alongside the food container.

White paper containers can be boxes and are usually placed alongside or close to print stations.

Smart Waste believes that developing a culture of recycling is more important than having the correct containers. You can recycle without having the correct containers; you cannot recycle without a culture of doing so. We therefore suggest that the containers be limited at the outset to what is necessary. As the culture develops you can obtain more containers which are suitable.

Positive recycling reinforcement yields positive results

Encouragement of recycling has been shown to be more effective than policing with negative consequences. For this reason champions are important. Champions are individuals or groups of individuals who embrace and practice recycling and encourage others to do likewise.

Anyone can become a champion by practising recycling and encouraging others to do so. It is however very helpful if senior management are seen to publicly embrace and practice recycling.

Smart Waste can assist with the following:

  • Training
  • Strategies on optimizing the practice and culture of recycling
  • Recording and reporting
  • Advice on containers, signage and other house-keeping issues
  • Rewards programs
  • The systems and resources required for scaling up recycling programs.
  • Programs on recycling and assistance with implementation.

Getting back to the simplicity of our ancestors is not difficult – it just takes time and practice.

Recycle Reg
Smart Waste

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