A new approach to increasing recycling

19 January 2012

How do you get people living in flats to recycle more? This is a question that we have struggled with across the UK. In an innovative response to this question Waste Watch developed Our Common Place.


Our Common Place started in July 2011 and involves engaging with residents living in large blocks of flats across 23 communities in London. The project goes beyond ‘Best Practice’, to what we refer to as ‘Next Practice’. In practice, this means that rather than working on recycling in isolation, we address recycling issues as a part of a wider community building effort. This is a distinct move away from how recycling campaigns had been traditionally done.

We see recycling performance as an indicator of a well functioning community in the same way as low crime, social behaviour (rather than anti social behaviour), well attended community events and low levels of littering are. Measurements of recycling performance tell us so much more than how much people recycle.

The aim of Our Common Place is to ensure that the initiatives we started as a part of the project are sustained beyond our involvement. Our approach is to follow the lead and enthusiasm of the residents we engage with. The community itself identifies local priorities and we support them to design and deliver up to three initiatives that they feel bring social benefit to their community and improves recycling. We are finding that more often than not the initiatives taking place complement each other because they are underpinned by the same set of values.
Initiatives range from homework clubs to swap shops or from skills sharing to ‘help your neighbour’ recycle campaigns. In one community, for example, a participant is leading a sewing course for her fellow community to enable others to refurbish their clothes. Through this it is easy to build in the benefits of up-cycling, reuse and recycling clothing for both a social, economic and environmental perspective.

When people care about where they live they feel a sense of shared responsibility for it, and are likely to behave in ways that enhance or maintain their place. The environment is an intrinsic part of Our Common Place.

Our approach has attracted attention from the influential Common Cause team and will be showcased at Waste Watch’s forthcoming conference ‘Creating social change’.

For more information or to book a ticket click here

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