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Blog: Start at the Cart™: Key Concepts for Influencing Behavior

Recycling is many things. It is both a noun and a verb. To a waste professional it may be the collection and diversion of tons of marketable materials. To community members, recycling is an easy way to waste less and to contribute to the greater good. When asked about recyclables, however, most mistakenly believe that anything with the chasing arrows should go in their bin.

Focus group attendees talk about the dynamics in their household. Most are proud to discuss their recycling, but a few reveal they are confused. And that’s the way it goes, recycling is an ever-moving stream of materials that adds up as a result of billions of decisions and actions, many of which are rooted in personal habits, values, or emotions. In order for recycling to succeed, we need to support and influence proper decisions and actions.

Through research and measurement of relevant interventions, ideal behaviors can be effectively instructed, prompted, and often entirely reset within your community. Collective success as a community depends on perpetual support for people to accurately and automatically recycle.

Since day one, The Recycling Partnership has focused on thoughtful human-centered approaches and tactical system solutions. The white paper, Start at the Cart™: Key Concepts for Influencing Behavior to Drive a Circular Economy is an introduction to putting a behavioral lens on your community engagement efforts. Guided by data and experience, the goal of this paper is to go beyond awareness building to measurably influencing the behaviors that underpin recycling’s impact and results.

“People are peopley,” meaning, our brains and behaviors are both complex and often at odds with each other. Changing or even influencing behavior is not always easy or fast, but luckily our research continues to confirm people want to recycle and we continue to provide data-backed solutions. Behavior change will continue to be a challenge but together, with infrastructure, education, and engagement we can better support individuals.

From the beginning, The Recycling Partnership has researched and designed human-centered and tactical solutions. This paper takes a look at what precedes recycling behaviors and our stage gated process for planning behavior change tactics. Whether you’ve attended one of our webinars on influencing behavior (or you want to), this paper gives a solid foundation on the three stage gates for influencing behavior: Infrastructure, Knowledge, and Engagement and links these key concepts to evidence.

Main Takeaways from our Influencing Behavior White Paper

  • There are three stage gates to influence recycling behavior: infrastructure/conditions; education/knowledge; engagement/social/cultural
  • Awareness does not always influence behavior
  • Don’t make assumptions about your audience. Better understand the audience; Investigate the issue, choose one behavior at a time
  • Tailor resources to meet the needs (informed by investigation and research)
  • Communications or education infrastructure needs to be reliable and on point, meet the needs of your community
  • Give your communications a job, set it up to win, and measure it
  • Build relationships and trust

Looking for our free tools and resources that are easily customizable for your community? Check out our newly updated DIYSigns, campaign builder, and social media toolkit today, and stay connected as we continue to release behavioral insights and tools.

Download Whitepaper