Remember the days when we used to get gold stars in school for doing our tasks? New Zealand is now working on a similar model to encourage and reward families to recycle with gold star stickers on their bins. This has proved to be effective with tons of additional recycling headed to the sorters. Otherwise, all of it would end up in landfills.
When the nationwide lockdown started back in April, Christchurch City saw rapidly decreasing rates of recycling. Contents from only 48% of the trucks could be processed in June because the residents were not sorting their items properly. This resulted in frequent contamination.
So, to tackle this problem, the manager for resource and recovery on the city council, Ross Trotter decided to start a reward and shaming system in the city. It would serve to motivate the residents to recycle carefully. They put a large gold star sticker on the bins with the best recycling and sorting. And the bins are removed from those who repeatedly fail to recycle properly. This has resulted in the 48% jumping to 80% in terms of recycling trucks that are headed to sorters.
Compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand has a low rate of recycling. In Auckland itself, the amount of waste sent to landfills is supposed to double by 2030.
Christchurch City Encourages Residents To Recycle With Gold Stars
The Christchurch scheme encourages residents to recycle with gold star stickers. Trotter explained how they wanted to take a different route this time. Usually, residents are given a list of things to do or follow. But he and his team wanted to motivate the people, not dictate them. They wanted to bring some positivity into the matter. And when neighbors see others around them getting a large gold star, even they want to get one. In fact, many reach out to Trotter’s team to know how they can get one on their curbside bins.
And if residents are unable to properly sort their waste three times, the council leaves warning notes on their wheelie bins. If the problem persists, the bins are confiscated. They have already sent over 1500 warnings. Public shaming is not what most people look forward to, so they start working on their recycling skills after the first warning.
Over 155,000 bins have been spot-checked, and 26% of those have received a gold star “for their excellent recycling”. 61% of the bins have been given an education notice. The most common problems are residents not removing lids of bottles or leaving behind soft plastic items like cheese wrappers. While people are heartily encouraged to recycle with gold star stickers, over 246 bins have been confiscated by the council. Those who want their bins back visit the council office and sign an agreement to take care of their recycling. Trotter pointed out how they have given gold stars to 56 residents who were on the verge of having their bins confiscated.
Trotter’s goal is to meet the 2019 standard when 99% of trucks could be sent for recycling. The recent drop was mainly due to people spending long hours at home due to the lockdown and pandemic. This resulted in households undergoing deep-cleaning and reorganization, which put more pressure on waste collection services. Trotter himself is yet to receive his gold star since the compliance staff is yet to visit his area. But he seems hopeful of getting one!
Image Credit: Think Papanui