JustWaste’s research into social behaviour provided Tasmania’s Launceston City Council the information it needed to roll out its food and garden organics collection program.

Making sure a community wants to adopt a new campaign is critical to its success. After all, if residents don’t alter their recycling behaviours, nothing will change.

To ensure the success of a rollout, residents need to be taught how to start making a difference through behavioural change. This involves providing them with the who, what, when, where and how they can get involved.

Justin Jones, Director of waste consultancy firm JustWaste, says the “why” is just as important when it comes to changing behaviours. He says that most often, residents want to do the right thing, but need to know why what they are doing is important.

He points to an example seen in the rollout of food organics and garden organics (FOGO) programs around Australia and efforts to increase resident involvement.

“We’ve looked at a lot of case studies where FOGO has been implemented, but only a small percentage of food is actually being put in the right bin. In some cases, it could be as little as one per cent,” Justin says.

“We looked at the behavioural psyche when it came to changing a person’s behaviour and found changing the terminology used to describe their waste affected residents. Instead of simply telling residents where to put their waste, they were told that certain bins needed certain waste.

“Similarly, another method was by flipping the idea of contamination around. Now, residents were told they were contaminating their general waste bins with recyclable materials instead of the other way around.”

JustWaste is a boutique waste consultancy that works with councils and companies around Australia to help maximise their waste initiatives. It does this by assisting with audits and assessments, strategic business development and through consultation, engagement and training. Justin says these methods help drive up diversion rates from landfill across the company’s network of clients and partners.

“We work with a lot of companies and local governments who each have their own really great ideas. Because of this, we’re able to share these innovations with other councils to help reduce waste across the country,” he says.

“One project we were lucky to be a part of from the very beginning was the introduction of FOGO bins with Launceston City Council in Tasmania.”

Justin says the FOGO rollout was a long-term program that JustWaste was able to help build every step of the way. The consultancy assisted with designing the program and underwent studies while engaging with the community to build the program.

“Data is key to designing an effective waste initiative. Without it, you can be led down the wrong track,” he says.

“We analysed what was being thrown away and found what materials were not being divided correctly. With this information, we were able to properly craft the educational programs to send the right messages.

“We can then see how that’s translated into results after the rollout and keep ensuring the community is doing the right thing several months after the excitement of the initial launch.”

Because of Tasmania’s nutrient-rich soil, a low level of contamination was needed. To provide that, JustWaste advised the scheme should be voluntary, with residents that opt in receiving a kitchen caddy bin without a liner to reduce plastic.

JustWaste and the council combined this with an education campaign across the City of Launceston’s social media to direct interested residents to frequently asked questions, fun facts and all manner of information.

“When the campaign began, people were able to click a link and have as much information necessary to get involved. Another important factor is keeping up that drip feed of information past the initial six to 12 months to maximise engagement,” he says.

“One of our key performance indicators was to see 20 per cent of the community opt in to the voluntary scheme. We managed to smash it in the first month and have reached 6000 residents out of 25,000.

“The real interesting statistic was the contamination level, which was around 0.8 per cent.”

He says JustWaste’s consultation and study tours with similar projects in South Australia and New South Wales helped them decide to make the scheme voluntary in order to keep the amount of glass and plastic contamination in the product low.

“We are lucky that waste is at the forefront of the public’s mind. With the popularity of television programs like the War on Waste and the current recycling issues with China, Australians are eager to get involved in reducing their waste.

“With the rollout of FOGO programs, JustWaste is conducting follow up research looking into reasons why a lot of food is still going in the red bin. With this we will be able to provide relevant information to the users to continue to increase diversion from landfill, rather than settling down with an approach.”