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

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.