The Region works hard to promote the green bin program. There are ambassadors for the program, information tents at public events and wonderful billboards on the side of garbage trucks. We can conclude that what has been done (perhaps complicated by implementation decisions) is not working.
The Region is considering measures that would force people to make greater use of their green bins such as a limit on garbage bags.
Before we go down that road, let’s try another approach to encourage greater use of green bins.
Here’s the strategy that I suggest:
Pick 3 neighbourhoods
I’m suggesting that we identify three neighbourhoods with low green bin rates. One in each of the Region’s three cities. It may be worth trying to have different influences such as demographics and the presence of a strong neighbourhood association. Keep them small enough to be manageable and easily definable.
Find out why people use or don’t use green bins
Let’s find out why the people who use green bins use them. Let’s find out the reasons why the others don’t. We know who they are on garbage day especially before collection begins. Maybe survey cards could be left on doors on garbage day? One set for each group. Maybe some could be asked to do a longer online survey. Identifying specific homes could also be used to do a phone survey.
Put feet on the ground
Let’s use staff and volunteer ambassadors to work with individuals and small groups to educate and help prompt changes. These efforts could include dinner table meetings like the Region used in Ayr to promote water conservation. Similar visits are occurring to help manage storm water.
Make green bin users ambassadors
Let’s identify green bin users who can be ambassadors for the program. Let’s empower them to help their neighbours. For example, they could make invitations to people they know and have a staff member or trained volunteer share why and how to use the green bin. REEP Green Solutions organized these type of get togethers earlier this year to promote draft proofing your home.
Identify and work with local influencers
Let’s work with people and organizations already making a difference in their neighbourhoods. For example, make a strong neighbourhood association an ally. Or even work with people who have organized a block party or a gathering of mothers with young kids.
Take time to learn what works
Working with these neighbourhoods requires time. A few months isn’t likely enough. A year (or more) is probably better. It’s important to take enough time to see the program make a difference so that there’s a noticeable, sustainable increase in use. Ideally, it’d help to be moving to the tipping point where people start to use them because enough of their neighbours are.
Take what we learn and apply it in another set of neighbourhoods
Once we’ve learned how to increase green bin usage, let’s move the focus to another set of neighbourhoods. I suspect that as more areas that currently don’t use green bins adopt it that we’d see an increase in other areas too. People moving from one to the other is one factor I expect to influence this kind of change.
Ending the program
The program can be discontinued once we have reached a target for green bin use. I’d base it on percentage of waste diverted rather than percentage of users. I think that this approach could achieve its goal within five years and would be comfortable having funding end after no more than five years.