Nothing more discouraging than to see people unprepared to separate their rubbish   & recycle materials that can be.

Nothing more discouraging than to see people unprepared to separate their rubbish & recycle materials that can be.

My local City Council, Salford, has an outstanding , comprehensive website packed with useful information  for citizens on every subject and has loads of great advice to go with its excellent recycling strategy. Households are given a large capacity black “wheelie bin” ( 240 litres -but smaller 140 litre bins are available to small households and for the elderly ) for general household rubbish but also three others – a pink lidded one  (for food and garden waste) blue ( for paper and cardboard) and brown (for glass, tins and plastic bottles.)  Currently the City recycles approximately 30% of waste materials from households and yet sadly the uptake of the various bins or their proper use  is not universal across the City and there are also residents who mix waste without bothering to separate items which can be recycled.

images work more instantly & effectively than blocks of text

images work more instantly & effectively than blocks of text

On the Salford council website are pages dedicated to recycling ( RUBBISH explore the pages by following the link) which give lists of what is supposed to go in each of the recycling wheelie bins and better still as well,  the same information in diagram/graphics form as well as regularly updated calendars telling us when each bin will next be emptied.

So how can we encourage even more people to take part in the scheme and what precisely is the  issue when it comes to people willing to help their environment and start recycling as a daily regular routine?  


If people are going to recycle, I think we have to make it second nature, and above all  easy and quick to decide what goes in each bin. Reducing the collection for general waste  ( black bin) to fortnightly presumes that people will be using recycling bins also, thus the black bin should not usually fill within two weeks. (Always a danger that people will fly tip or just pile up extra mixed waste in bin liners which could be a problem we can do without as street litter is already a problem in my neighbourhood.)


My guess is that people may be keen to do their bit but clearly can be confused about what items can and cannot be put in each of the bins provided. The biggest confusion perhaps surrounds the wide range of plastics we all have to dispose of when buying and then after using food and drinks. Often this form of shop packaging is in various forms of plastic which cannot as yet be recycled although most plastic drink bottles, fizzy drink cans and food cans are recyclable. ( I am passionate about recycling but I used Tippex  to write on a reminder  as I kept forgetting which bin was for paper and which for tin, plastic and glass- a self adhesive label system would be a great help and improvement !)

Whilst it is great to have leaflets, documents and pages online and dropped through the post  to help people make the right choice of bin, that presumes all are willing to take the time to check out those pages and absorb and retain that information and yet  sadly, it appears , many just can’t be bothered.


In my view there is a far simpler and more direct approach which might be considered and which might greatly increase participation by making it as easy as possible. Put the information on the actual bin at point of uses and do that with images !

making & laminating recycling labels

making & laminating recycling labels

To illustrate my ideas  I downloaded the relevant pages from the Salford website pages and brochures (with graphics not the mostly text versions,)  scanned them and then enlarged them on my laptop, printed them out in strips and laminated them. I used double-sided tape to stick the labels on the relevant bin lids as well as posting the same information above the bins at the back of my house.

position labels on lid where they are seen at point of use

position labels on lid where they are seen at point of use ?

The council already have run a campaign where they stuck conspicuous waterproof self-adhesive  labels to the top of the general waste bins with details of the new collection calendar. Why not commission self-adhesive label strips which people can stick on their bin lids so there is no confusion about what goes where ?



Additionally, the same information in diagram form could be stuck to the front face of the bin, thus , for example, the parents of young children could engage them in helping to decide what goes in each bin by getting them to match items with those pictured on the label. A pack of such labels could be produced and posted to each of the city’s households.


Please note – the graphics in my sample labels I made here (for illustration purposes)  are from Salford City Council brochure and no infringement of their copyright is intended where I am sharing this idea with them in particular and where their original graphics could be adapted to form the labeling I suggest here- thanks)

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