More lexical nudges, and a clever waste bin

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?

Jessica

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One response to “More lexical nudges, and a clever waste bin

  1. This example can also be related to norms of sustainable consumption and then analyzed as another site of a much larger process of governmentalization. For a complementary French perspective, see http://yannickrumpala.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/rumpala-sustainable-consumption-as-a-new-phase-in-a-governmentalization-of-consumption-ipa-grenoble-2010.pdf

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