All over the University of Warwick campus, and in other institutions, many of the refuse bins are presented in the above pictured way. The recycle bins are placed adjacent to the land fill bins. It may seem that it is a logical resolution to have the two different types of bins next to each other. However, it could also be an intentional ploy in order to increase the amount of waste which is recycled by persuading people to reconsider what it actually is they are throwing away. If the latter is the case, it could be explained by the Nudge theory. A nudge, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. Nudge interventions must be easy and cheap to avoid. In this example, it would not be detrimental for the person to use the landfill bin instead of the recycle bin. The purpose of the Nudge theory is to create environments which facilitate behaviour change strategies for closing the gap between pro-social intentions and actions. For example, intending to recycle and actually putting recyclables into the correct container.
Kallbekken and Sælen (2013) examined the effectiveness of nudge techniques in reducing food waste. In a sample of 52 restaurants two nudge techniques were implemented. Firstly, plate sizes in the hotel buffets were reduced (from an average of 24cm to 21cm). Secondly, social cues were provided by displaying a sign at the buffet that encouraged restaurant guests to help themselves more than once. The experiment indicates that reducing the plate size reduced food waste by 19.5%, and that introducing the sign pointing out that guests can help themselves more than once reduced food waste by 20.5%. Table 1 shows the mean amount (kg) of food waste pre and post treatment.
By using easy to implement nudge techniques, such as reducing plate size, food waste was significantly reduced. This research, in addition the Nudge theory, would therefore suggest that by creating a choice architecture of having landfill bills next to recycle bins, the amount recycled should increase. This is because when one intends to throw their rubbish in the bin, seeing the recycle bin may ‘nudge’ them into reconsidering their actions.
Kallbekken, S. and Sælen, H. (2013). ‘Nudging’ hotel guests to reduce food waste as a win–win environmental measure. Economics Letters, 119(3), pp.325-327.