What is it and how does one get it?
Choosing not to drink and drive is an intelligent but not always easy or popular choice. Recycling is also a choice and one which is easier to make and becoming more popular. Both are good choices for the individual and for society as a whole.
The main difference between organizations which manage to recycle and those that do not is the culture of recycling. Containers and signage are all very well but if the individual is not choosing to recycle and the group does not recycle then invariably recycling fails in that organization.
Education is key to creating awareness and learning the basics of recycling. None of it is rocket science and the principles can easily be assimilated by most members of society starting with pre school learners. Education can vary from videos - of which there are plenty on the web - to short, practical, show and tell sessions which teach what goes where.
Children seem fascinated and learn quickly, educating their parents along the way. Some schools run very successful recycling programs. It is post matric when the culture seems to be forgotten. Unless tertiary education facilities reinforce recycling the culture seems to be forgotten along with a lot of other education.
Choosing not to drink and drive is an intelligent and so is recycling!
There are few organizations in the work place where recycling is taught and encouraged. A few are shining examples, Spier Estate, near Stellenbosch is recycling 98% of their waste and earning big kudos in the bargain. But for most organizations it is a case of “blink voor en stink agter”.
So how does one get recycling? Invariably there is a champion; someone who decides he or she wants to recycle, both for himself and to do some good for the environment. It can be as small as a secretary squirreling away paper she has used in a box under the desk and then taking this to a collection point at the weekend. Many calls which we receive are from administrative assistants who have persuaded management to try recycling.
Once started it is a question of a culture taking hold. This can be driven top down by way of memos or more subtly and effectively by the sight of the MD stopping to pick up a piece of waste and throwing it in an appropriate container. It is also not unusal for factory floor workers to start separating waste and recyclables and then asking management for help with their efforts.
The recycling function starts small and can grow as big and sophisticated as the participants want it to. The simplest system involves separating general waste and recyclables which are mixed. This will earn the lowest income. If the recyclables are sorted further into plastics, paper, cardboard, tin and glass the income will increase. Once the volumes reach a certain size the recyclable materials move into commercial size containers which earn more money.
Not everyone has the resources, space or inclination to undertake a full recycling program but even the minimum is better than nothing. Training of staff, containers, and systems are all available at minimum cost. All it takes for the culture to start is for someone to make a choice.