By continuing to understand consumers and market trends, products can be developed that benefit customers while also reducing environmental impact.
By Syvannah Vine
Sustainability is a fundamental term when looking at solving Earth’s substantial list of environmental issues. All industries, across every facet of business, are considering how they can incorporate sustainable practices. Ninety percent of the millennial generation says they will purchase from a brand with trusted environmental practices (Shelton Group, 2017). As these millennials are becoming the new purchasers and consumers, more pressure is put on companies to adopt sustainable practices into their workflows. It is more critical now more than ever, to keep up with the sustainability trends that cater to and attract this niche market.
Waste diversion is one of the most significant reporting indicators for companies that publish and share their sustainability initiatives. Recycling is an essential green practice and is necessary if companies want to receive recognition for their efforts. Diversion programs are an opportunity to engage people and foster a sense of community. Having an established recycling program lets consumers know that sustainability is a priority to business.
In the waste container industry, there are two lenses to consider when talking about sustainability. The first is from the perspective of the user and the second is from the standpoint of the manufacturer. The designer and manufacturer should consider the mindset of the user and how the container can be used to manipulate the user to do the right thing and recycle.
When someone has something to throw away, there is only a split second to communicate to that user about your recycling program. There is so much information that needs to be communicated in this short timeframe. With 85 percent of the population being skeptical or neutral of recycling, it is likely that at this moment, recycling is not their top priority (Keep America Beautiful, 2015).
How can you shift the cynical mindset of that user, effectively convincing them to do the right thing, to take the extra time to consider what it is they have in their hand, and discard of it in the correct stream?
The Right Design
This is where designing your containers with sustainability in mind comes forth. Putting yourself in that consumer’s shoes. Ask yourself, what does it take to persuade them and how can you foster this mindset onto the user in that short timeframe using your bin? When people have an eco-friendly mindset, they want to do what is right to help the planet. The question is, how can we push this feeling onto people when they are merely just trying to throw something away?
Use colors that are associated with the environment—natural, earthy colors that people can resonate with. Blues and greens for recyclables and organics, and a darker color, like black for waste to represent a negative, dismissive feel. Use verbiage that has an emotional sensation associated with it, such as using the word “landfill” instead of “waste”. Even coupling with an image of a landfill to have more of a negative connotation, implies that the user is supporting that photographed landfill by placing materials in the waste stream.
Consider containers that have a natural pattern and design associated with them. Some containers incorporate lines and cuts with ripples to imitate waves or wind (see Figure 1, page 38). Others are even designed with a simplistic, clean look with straight cuts to encourage a minimalistic, modern feel (see Figure 2, page 39). Having a well-designed environment creates better behaviors among the people using the containers. A combination of a beautifully designed space coupled with easily accessible, properly labeled and centrally located recycling bins equals a win for sustainability efforts.
As the upcoming generation of consumers value sustainability, demonstrating transparency and accountability is critical for businesses. Container manufacturers feel the pressure from customers to design products that are high quality, durable, useable, while also being sustainable. Manufacturers strive to provide container options that reduce their carbon footprint as well as protect our environment from further damage. Forward thinking in the collection industry is paramount to achieving environmental sustainability and zero waste. The industry continues to move far more toward using recycled content, including recycled lumber, post-consumer and post-industrial plastics. Some companies use a lot of the recycled content in recycling and waste containers from existing curbside programs, and the balance is post-industrial materials. By using recycled content, we are supporting a circular economy, while simultaneously preserving the Earth’s natural resources.
Techniques used in manufacturing, such as rotational molding, use post-industrial recycled content in containers, whereas injection and blow molding techniques use post-consumer recycled content. Containers should be designed for end of life, so that when they are no longer needed or used, they can be reprocessed into pellets and introduced back into the design chain to be manufactured into another product.
Understanding Your Markets
By continuing to understand our consumers and market trends, we can develop products that benefit our customers while reducing our environmental impact. We improve our operations by using less resources to make more products. The more that we can continue to focus on the sustainable designing and manufacturing of products, the greener and more impactful future we can make.
As a Waste Diversion Specialist for Busch Systems (Barrie, ON), Syvannah Vine is responsible for helping clients to implement recycling containers into their current waste management practices. Syvannah is a Certified Waste Auditor from the Recycling Council of Ontario and holds an Environmental Biology and Technology degree from Nipissing University. For over three decades, Busch Systems has been providing customized recycling and waste containers to its clients across North America. She can be reached at (705) 722-0806, ext. 1750 or via e-mail at [email protected].