Why would you not recycle? Fair to say that recycling has become a social norm – we are all expected to take personal responsibility for the future of the planet, and increasingly more of us do. There are structures and services in place to make this easier – the black boxes provided for our recyclable detritus, can banks, bottle banks, clothes banks. And there are technologies which can help us to re-use our waste, for instance, paper log-makers which can turn waste paper into fuel. In DEFRA’s (2008) A Framework for Pro-environmental Behaviours, these kind of provisions are summarised in the ‘4 E’s model’: Engage, Exemplify, Encourage, Enable.
But there are even more subtle, lexical nudges going on in the pursuit of pro-environmental behaviour change. This is a waste bin on our university campus. I don’t often go round taking photos of bins, but this one caught my attention. It ostensibly gives you 3 choices: recycle your food and drink cans, recycle your bottles, or throw your rubbish away. But the subtle undertone of this linguistically-savvy waste bin (the bin is also bilingual, reading ‘Your World, Your University/ Eich Byd, Eich Prifysgol in Welsh), is that the 3rd option is not marked something like ‘other waste’ but draws attention to where your wasteful, wasted waste will end up: in landfill. Now why would you not recycle in a context in which your choices have been edited in this way?