Published Friday, 16th September 2016
Alex Neilsen, a Sutton resident and recycling collaborator, describes his thoughts on recycling in Sutton...
As a Young Commissioner the future of our planet is very important to me: my generation will depend on the planet being fit for us to live on without natural resources completely depleted. That's why I wanted to find out about how recycling can be improved in Sutton - recycling is one of the easiest ways for us to be eco-friendly - and how Sutton's residents can work together to bring about that change.
I went to a meeting to find out the results of a survey that was run by Sutton’s waste team. The survey was run to determine what misconceptions Sutton residents may have about what can be recycled. The survey also recorded how long it took residents to identify which items they should recycled - this was very interesting because it showed us that residents were unsure about some of the items, and therefore were more likely to put them in the wrong bin. I was quite surprised that some items, like paper coffee cups, can't be recycled - it goes to show that we can be wrong even when using our intuition to decide!
We then took a look at some innovative methods that different places use to increase recycling, including bottle bank arcades, bins tagged with RFID chips and even a Golden Ticket prize draw in some boroughs in London. My personal favourite was Taiwan's system of musical garbage trucks: when people heard the music they would come outside to throw their trash into the truck. On different days of the week the truck would take different types of waste, which made taking out the trash a community activity! Although musical garbage trucks are unlikely to come to Sutton, these examples showed us that it is really possible to change people's behaviours when it comes to recycling.
We then discussed some ideas for running our own campaign. From the research, it was found that many people couldn't recycle because they didn't have something to put the recycling in inside their home, meaning that recycling could be sped up by giving people recycling bins to put in their kitchens. The results also suggested that almost every household has at least one person who actively wants to recycle; these people can help us reach almost everyone in the borough - not only those who don't recycle, but also those who don't put some items in the right bin.
I thought that the best way to reach people would be to put information about recycling where people are likely to see it - we were told that one of the most visited parts of the council website was to do with recycling. Our strategy could be to expand this by putting recycling information on other popular parts of the website; this way, we can make sure that more people see what they should and should not recycle.
Overall I found it very interesting to see what habits people have when it comes to recycling. I left the meeting with the knowledge that it is possible for us to help take care of this planet by trying to get more people in our borough to recycle and recycle correctly. And we can start right now: try to get one person you know - a family member, a neighbour, a close friend - to change their recycling habits for the better. That way we can do our part to save our planet for future generations.