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The psychology of recycling

Guildford Borough Council has used psychology to help push up its recycling rates. After commissioning The Environmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Surrey to conduct research on waste recycling, it saw one area increase its recycling rate to 90%.

The council said the psychological dimension of recycling is often overlooked, with only personal attitudes and convenience considered. The research aimed to identify influential information that affected public participation in the borough’s kerbside collection scheme, provide information to understand the specific recycling habits of Guildford’s residents, and create innovative methods of increasing participation in Guildford’s kerbside collection scheme.

Surveys, work with focus groups, and practical field trials into how different types of feedback to residents increased their participation were used. One of the feedback trials saw participation rise from 50% to 90%, and remain at 80% after the feedback stopped.

Guildford Borough Council recycling officer Ian Westgate said: “It provided incontrovertible proof that campaigning at a real grassroots level in recognisable local communities is extremely effective.”

Over 100 local volunteers are now promoting the borough’s recycling services in their communities, armed with the results of the research. Latest figures put the borough’s recycling rate at 33%.

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