Equitable and Inclusive Recycling Education and Outreach

Racial and ethnic diversity in the United States is increasing and communities are becoming more diverse. As recycling professionals, you will be interacting with more and more audiences of differing racial and ethnic groups which creates an opportunity—and call to action—to approach outreach initiatives more equitably and inclusively, and ultimately more effectively.

In some programs, recycling education, engagement, and support are designed with a one-size-fits-all strategy. Equitable outreach means meeting people where they are and finding ways to engage in ways that are meaningful and respectful.

This Introduction to Creating More Equitable Recycling Outreach was designed to provide guidance in tailoring public engagement and outreach with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in mind. The guide offers practical tips, data, and insights to improve effectiveness and strengthen community engagement.

Our Introduction to Creating More Equitable Recycling Outreach

What do we mean by DEIB?

Diversity = Representation of all members of your community
Equity = Resources that are justly distributed
Inclusion = User-centered design
Belonging = Authentic connectedness to community services and waste reduction

What’s included in the guide?

The Equitable Outreach Guide detailing why and how to create equitable outreach. A free photo library featuring single-family and multifamily images created to make including diverse individuals the norm. Educational and instructional messaging, which includes pre-designed and customizable infocards available in Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Why does equity matter in recycling outreach?

Aligning with our national research, our BIPOC-focused research shows 87% believe recycling is a positive action to take, but our other national general population research showed that Black and Hispanic/Latino, especially those aged 18-44, were more likely than others to feel more barriers and frustrations. It is not surprising given there are significant infrastructure gaps to recycling that need to be addressed to help communities fully participate in recycling programs. Analysis of The Recycling Partnership’s National Recycling Database shows that communities with a majority Black population are 50% more likely than the rest of the nation to not have automatic curbside collection and are 50% more likely to not have a recycling program at all. So we know people think that recycling is important, but barriers to recycle are felt unevenly across demographics, and many lack clear instructions on how to participate.

What are the top motivations for recycling?

Good question. And the answer depends on background.

  • Highest Among Hispanic/Latinx Respondents: “Recycling helps protect wildlife, from turtles and dolphins to bears and birds.” Ranked well across groups other than Black, also in Confidence and Segmentation.
  • Highest Among Black or African-American Respondents: “By recycling, I am helping to protect the planet for my children and grandchildren.” Ranked well across groups other than AAPI and “being required to” although Black or African American respondents rank reducing waste the lowest among demographic groups in both projects that ask this question. It is the highest they rank any of the offered motivators. This suggests that common motivational messaging is less effective among Black or African American communities and additional research on what is compelling should be done.
  • Highest Among Indigenous Respondents: “By recycling, I am helping to protect the planet for my children and grandchildren” tied with “recycling reduces the need for landfill space.” Ranked well across groups other than AAPI.
  • Highest Among Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander Respondents: “Recycling ultimately leads to cleaner air and water.” Ranked well across groups other than Indigenous and “Recycling reduces climate change.”

How do we create outreach that resonates with diverse audiences?

Four keys are included in the guide to help – translation, transcreation, social marketing, and participatory design and co-creation.

Download the guide to equitable recycling outreach 

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