Recycling bin choice architecture

Reader Elaine Wang sends along this report, originally posted, she says, on a friend’s Facebook page. It’s a version of the grocery cart choice architecture idea applied to recycling.

In my former city (Fort Collins, CO), they decided to switch things around so that recycling went in the big 90 gallon container, and everyone got a small 35 gallon container for trash. Everyone who was previously filling up just a small bin of recycling suddenly started filling up the 90 gallon and NOT having as much trash, so the 35 gallon for trash was just fine. Turns out, people only recycle as much as you give them space to recycle. If you make their trash capacity smaller and give them unlimited room to recycle, they will remember to recycle SO much more. It was awesome. I was even shocked at my own recycling efforts!

We’d love to know more about this initiative from our readers in Colorado – and elsewhere!

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  • Anonymous

    I actually moved from Dallas to Toronto about a year ago and found about the same thing – huge recycling bin, small garbage bin and a tiny bin for “organics.” Rough first couple weeks, but doesn’t take long before you’re hunting for stuff to recycle.

  • Rebecca

    This is actually what I do at home! With the new streamlined recycling system in my area, I am able to recycle more than ever. I now use my big bin for recycling and I bought a tiny trash can for everything else. If I started composting, I wouldn’t have much trash at all!

  • Anonymous

    In human factors language this is called “boundary seeking behaviour”.

    Shape coding also works.

    Check out this:

  • Flawed Events

    I experienced a similar situation when moving from Chicago to Brookline, MA. Brookline’s trash pickup policies make recycling a necessity for me:

  • Bob

    In Boulder, CO, we have Western Disposal. There are three sizes of garbage 32, 64 and 96 gal, priced accordingly. Regardless of size of garbage, it includes a 64 gal recycling container, and a 32 gal composting container. So the decision is how much you want to pay for garbage.

  • Skip Hire Hounslow

    A very simple yet effective idea. Here in the UK we only get 3 small boxes, 1 glass, 1 paper and 1 cans, but if I had more room I know I would do a lot more. I barely fill my “rubbish” bin.