Reducing waste needs a mix of methods to help people make changes, with well planned support from community, industry and territorial authorities.
Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee was told previous work on addressing waste had focused on quantities and types of waste generated, infrastructure development and environmental effects. It was also essential to understand what made people ‘tick’ when it came to reducing waste.
Auckland University environmental psychologist Dr Linda Cameron said her research had shown that a successful waste minimisation programme should include consultation with industry, community and local government, financial incentives such as free recycling bins and messages that appealed to people’s concern for the natural environment.
Simple steps that people could take to reduce waste at home or work helped people to act, and information about what to do, such as how to compost, helped develop people’s skills. Feedback and monitoring was needed on the outcomes achieved and appreciation for people’s efforts.
Dr Cameron said social factors influencing waste behaviour needed to be understood to help change their behaviour. Targeting people’s attitudes had a weak effect on behaviour, while targeting changing community structures, social values and world views had much more effect.
The Council needed to identify barriers to good waste behaviour and benefits, develop strategies to overcome barriers, pilot an intervention programme and evaluate its effectiveness. People developed resistance to some incentives over time but responded better to ecological values, she said.
Cr Evan Penny said many people in the Region thought they were recycling but the evidence was that few were, indicating a strong acceptance of its virtues but significant barriers to doing it.
Taupo Councillor Laurie Burdett said commercial interests were encouraging more waste by offering incentives while the District Council was trying to reduce it, providing the community with conflicting messages. Other territorial authorities were providing financial disincentives to recycling by funding structures for landfills.
Chairman Lois Livingston said the Council needed to look at ways of working with territorial authorities to create widespread regional coverage on upcoming waste campaigns.