Increasing recycling amongst consumers remains a complex challenge. However, new research illustrates that inspiring consumers through the transformation of recyclables into new products can nudge them to recycle more.
Despite consensus on the importance of recycling, getting people to recycle more remains a challenge. Though positive recycling behaviour is dependent on a complex set of factors, research published in the Journal of Marketing, suggests that a simple nudge such as tapping into people’s imagination can encourage them to recycle more.
The series of experimental studies demonstrate that when consumers are visually prompted to imagine that recyclables can be transformed into new products, they are more likely to recycle. For example, in one of the six studies, people were more likely to recycle when looking at messages that illustrated that a plastic bottle placed into a recycling bin would become a new article of clothing, as opposed to a message only suggesting to place the plastic bottle in the recycling bin. The outcome remained the same even when the recyclable was shown to turn into the same product.
These experiments suggest that focusing on the transformation of a product in a tangible way, can encourage recycling behaviour. The researchers call for a much-needed evolution in our approach in our communication about recycling by shifting the conversation from ‘Where does this go?’ to ‘What can this make?’.
Though the question of how to improve recycling as a whole system remains complex, rethinking some of the smaller parts of the equation can go a long way. Who knows which simple communication nudge will make all the difference?