Behaviour not words count in recycling

Two weeks ago, my local council gave every household in the village a black plastic recycling box – I am not aware of any direct correspondence before the box was thrown outside our homes, but it contained leaflets giving detailed instructions about what could be recycled, when and how.

Being good obedient Brits (this is Wiltshire after all), yesterday every householder appeared to have followed the instructions and neatly at the side of the kerb placed a box containing glass bottles and jars (washed), cans (crushed), paper (no cardboard), plastic containers (squashed) and clothing (tied securely in a plastic bag).

But, no-one came to collect them.  The waste disposal truck (or dustbin lorry as we used to call it) came as usual, but not to empty the black boxes.  So what do we do?

At the moment, everyone seems to have left their box on the kerb, presuming maybe the collection will be today.  Or perhaps the leaflet is wrong and collections start next week?  It can’t be the week after as that is Christmas which has different collection dates.

I’ll probably leave it until Sunday and then carry the box the few hundred yards to the local recreation area where there are perfectly good recycling facilities (which presumably will soon be removed, despite the significant cost involved in building a cement platform for the bins earlier this year.)

From a communications point of view this is so stupid.  Clearly there is motivation to recycle in the village and as PR professionals know it is hard to get behaviour change.  In failing to reward our compliance, it is possible the positive first steps will not be continued.

Lesson for public relations?  Clearly actions speak louder than words.  Or when you’ve got the momentum of behaviour change, you have to deliver your side of the transaction.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.