According to the latest U.S. Census data, we are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as a nation. In turn, this means that our recycling outreach programs need to become more inclusive and accessible as well.
At the 2023 Resource Recycling Conference in Orlando, Florida, we introduced our latest resource designed to assist community recycling program leaders: the Introduction to Creating More Equitable Recycling Outreach. The Guide is intended to catalyze action at the community level by offering insights on creating equitable access—and easy-to-understand outreach—to recycling programs.
With funding from 3M, this resource was produced by our Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact, which we launched in 2022. One of the Center’s main goals is to understand the barriers that people face in recycling well, and then prototyping solutions and deploying behavior change resources.
Applying a DEIB lens to recycling
At The Partnership, we use a DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) framework when looking for solutions. Recycling through a DEIB lens means that everyone should have access to outreach resources that are reliable and easy-to-use, are culturally appropriate and relevant, and are readily available. It also means collaborating with diverse community representatives—listening, respecting, and engaging them in solutions that resonate with them.
- 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
And, research backs up the case for the application of DEIB principles to recycling programs. Our data shows that 87% of BIPOC individuals believe recycling is a positive action to take, yet especially Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos, aged 18-44, are more likely than others to feel additional barriers and frustrations related to it.
The reality is that we need to help all communities have access to, and fully participate in, recycling programs. It is the only way for the U.S. to achieve recycling as a social norm and get full benefit from it. This is a call to action to help us all find better ways to provide recycling access and outreach without alienating anyone based on sex, gender, religious belief, ability, ethnicity, cultural background, language spoken, or socioeconomic position.
Creating outreach that resonates
Perhaps not surprisingly, our research repeatedly pointed to the need to engage “trusted advisors” such as friends and family, community centers and events, even local grocery stores. And audience-led collaboration can go a long way in improving your local recycling outreach efforts.
Naturally, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and achieving equitable outreach is a journey. But we hope this latest resource will provide useful whether you’re just starting out, or if you’ve already embarked on the path toward equitable outreach. You’ll find actionable steps to help you build a foundation for inclusive public engagement programs that shift mindsets; increase awareness, understanding, and motivation; and make all people feel like it’s easy and beneficial to recycle well.
It’s time to understand the motivations and obstacles that exist across our communities in order to engage with empathy—and ultimately make a difference in the life of individuals and the planet.
Get started making your outreach more equitable today – download the Equitable Outreach Guide and get access to the library of free photos as well as customizable educational and instructional messaging in Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.