How to be a community recycling champion

Has all this talk about recycling lately got you thinking about how you wish others would follow your lead and do more to keep waste out of landfill?

We’ve gathered some steps and resources to make it easier for you, one of our wonderful Waste Warriors, to be the catalyst for change in your community or workplace.

If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please add them in the comment below. We’re all in this together.

Where you live

You’ll be surprised at how much support there is in your local community to reduce waste. Usually people are just waiting for someone to get things moving.

  1. Identify your community leaders. In addition to your local council representatives, this could include people such as school principals, presidents of local clubs and associations, and those involved in your local business chamber.
  2. Write to them to ask whether they would be interested in helping you to increase recycling rates in the community and keeping waste out of landfills (who could say no to that!).
  3. Think about the method that would suit that location best. For example:
    1. Your local council’s sustainability officer might be interested in setting up a Community Collection Hub in an easily accessible location such as a community centre or library. Funds raised could support local groups.
    2. Your local MP could buy a Zero Waste Box that accepts disposable masks and gloves, and open it up to the community.
    3. Your local business could choose to join one of TerraCycle’s free recycling programs related to their products, and then donate funds raised through recycling to local sporting teams or schools.
  4. Tell everyone! Posters on noticeboards, posts on community Facebook/NextDoor pages, stories in your local media, items in council and school newsletter are just the start.

Where you work

Speak to your office or property manager about setting up recycling stations for items not accepted in your contracted rubbish removal, perhaps in your office foyer or kitchen. You could choose to become a TerraCycle Community Collection Hub, which means your address would be open to the public (a good strategy to attract foot traffic if your business values visitation), or just keep it for people in your company or building.

If you plan to email your colleagues about your initiative, here are a few tips:

  • Keep it light and positive. After this year, we don’t need more doom and gloom. So instead of talking about how we need to save the planet, focus more on how easy it is to recycle these items.
  • Research shows that the main motivator for people to recycle is if everyone else is going it. Ensure your recycling bins are in a highly visible area, and consider highlighting someone who is doing the right thing.
  • Education is key. Share articles about why recycling is important, put up posters that make it very clear what is accepted in each recycling bin, and celebrate collection milestones with everyone involved.

Lobby your favourite brands

There is nothing like consumer pressure to affect change. Every company wants to ensure their products are as attractive as possible to consumers, and increasingly, that means ensuring that the packaging (and even the product) contains at least some recycled materials, and at the very least can be recycled or reused.

Here is a sample letter you could send to your favourite brand:

Dear [brand],

I’ve been using [brand name] for some time now – it has been my go-to [insert category eg moisturiser/pain reliever]. But there is one thing that would make it better.

Your brand is hard to recycle, and increasingly I am choosing products that I can keep out of landfill when they’re finished. In Australia only 12 percent of plastic is recycled, mainly because it can be confusing to know whether it will be accepted in our council recycling bin. Your packaging is [too dark/too small/made from mixed materials] which won’t be accepted by our recycling service.

If you could offer a recycling solution for your product, I’m sure you would attract more customers. If there are increased costs involved, studies show that people are prepared to pay more for an environmentally-friendly product. For example, many of the world’s biggest brands have partnered with TerraCycle to help them meet their sustainability goals and ensure their waste is recycled properly through programs that are free to consumers.

I look forward to hearing about your sustainability plans in relation to [brand name].

Yours sincerely

Then follow up a couple of weeks later if you haven’t heard back. Pester power works, but always keep your communication positive.

If you need some facts and figures

  • Estimated recycling rates by material are highest for metals (90%), then masonry materials (72%), paper and cardboard (60%), glass (57%), organics (52%), ash (43%) and hazardous waste (27%). Only about 12% of waste plastics are recycled.  
  • Compared with a selection of other developed economies, Australia generates more waste than the average and the proportion it recycles is a little less than the average. 

From the 2018 National Waste Report (the most recent version that is available).

The 2020 TerraCycle Spring Survey of more than 1500 people found that:

  • 98% of respondents said they were at least somewhat influenced by sustainable packaging materials when making shopping choices (58.1% said they were strongly influenced). 
  • 90% said they were willing to pay more for a product that offered a recycling solution (14% said they would pay significantly more).

Good luck! Let us know how you’re going with your efforts to eliminate the idea of waste. We’d love to share it with our TerraCycle community.

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