A good book is a portal to other worlds by the story it tells. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones led millions into the land of Westoros and the amazing landscape, characters and plot twists made it one of HBO’s most successful series. A good bin has an equally good story to tell and that story is even better because it’s true. Help your bin, and your recycling effort, by enchanting it with the gift to tell its story.
Yale University’s School of Management has gifted its bins with a storytelling capacity befitting an esteemed institution. Recycling, Trash, and Composting bins don’t merely tell you what goes inside, they tell you where it will go and what will happen to it.
The Rube Goldberg flowchart of materials that accompanies the set of bins doesn’t require an Ivy League education to follow, but it certainly provides an Ivy League education in teaching you what will happen to your banana peel if you throw it in the Compost bin as opposed to the Trash bin.
Although adding storytelling elements to waste bins is aesthetically pleasing and educational, the benefits of doing so run much deeper. In fact, recycling bins with storytelling capacity have much higher program participation as well as decreased contamination rates for three reasons.
The 3 Reasons Why Adding A Story To Recycling Bins Increases Program Participation & Lowers Contamination Rates
1. Adding A Story Reinforces Why Recycling Is Important
By adding a story to your bins, you can help tell the story of your recycling program, educate the public, and increase successful participation by reinforcing the importance of recycling. Sometimes people tend to lose sight of why recycling is so important and get lazy when disposing of their waste. By including a storytelling element at the point of disposal, people are more likely to think twice about throwing their bottles in the trash rather than properly placing them in the correct recycling bin.
However, you must be careful not to force the story on the busy passerby who merely wants to toss a candy wrapper and doesn’t want a lengthy article on the local landfill. Instead, be sure that the busy person’s initial glance answers the question of “which bin”. At the same time, the curious person’s wish for more information about the journey of their waste should also be granted. Find a happy medium between a one-word sign, “Compost”, and a flowchart and/or mini-article on the processing of organics from bin to garden bed. A simple sentence, accompanied by a picture, might suffice:
“COMPOST: all our food scraps will be composted by Farmer Brown of Agville and made into garden soil.”
2. Storytelling Makes The Act Of Recycling More Personal
Storytelling connects the passerby with the waste chain and gives their action importance and explains its impact. Unfortunately, passersby may have little sympathy for food service workers, custodians or recyclers who may be forced to sort out a glass bottle tossed in a compost bin. However, that same passersby may have far greater sympathy for composters, farmers and their grandmother the gardener because of this one sentence story and thereby decide due to that personal connection to put glass into the recycling bin instead. As a result, your recycling contamination rates will be significantly lower due to the fact that people are making a connection with the story on the recycling bin and properly disposing of their waste.
3. Stories With Numbers Can Sway Even The Most Resistant Recyclers To Participate
When things are framed in a financial benefit/loss scenario, the message being relayed is more likely to resonate. For example, sharing the story of Waterbury’s financial story has helped me win support for recycling in The Brass City. In this instance, Waterbury is paid $4.25 for every ton it recycles, but must pay more than $63 for every ton sent for incineration as trash, a total of $2 million per year. Even as the United States is so divided by the political and social issues of the day, this story has done wonders to win converts to recycling. Democrats and Republicans all agree it is better to earn money than burn money. Tell such stories with your bins, and you will win converts to your cause.
-By CJ May
CJ May served as Yale University’s recycling coordinator for more than 20 years. He currently works as recycling coordinator for the City of Waterbury where he combines his work as an environmental magician and sustainability presenter to enchant 32,000 households with the magic of recycling.
For more information on how to start a recycling program, check out our these blogs Why I LOVE the BevvyBin! and Three Ways to Protect Your Recycling Program From Failure.
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