It's not rubbish - The case for a design-led approach to recycling

The Victorian Government has just announced that one million households across 46 councils will now have four kerbside bins by next year, as part of its plan to reduce waste going to landfill by 80% over the next decade. The new bins will separate regular recycling, food and garden waste, household waste and now glass recycling.

In response to the collapse of local recyclers and overseas channels, in 2019 Infrastructure Victoria commissioned a report on the state’s recycling system. Cobalt submitted a response to the interim version of this report arguing the case for a design-lead user insights exercise to bring together key industry and government stakeholders around end-users’ needs.

Cobalt welcomes the direction of the announced initiative, while noting it is still only a plan.  We believe people are ready to do more in terms of recycling. For example, we noticed this trend in our design research, and more tangibly from our clients, who in turn are responding to end-users preferences toward more sustainable products.

What will be critical to the initiative’s success however is how it is rolled out across homes. Therefore, Cobalt sees the next steps being to gather and integrate user and stakeholder needs. We know local councils, government and industry will have well-articulated needs, so our focus would be on uncovering the diverse needs of the Victorian public.

Capturing the insights of everyday people will enable the delivery of a implementable system that is truly embraced, rather than begrudgingly used.

The main considerations of a human centred design approach should revolve around:

  • How Victorians across different household, profiles, locations and councils and municipalities currently manage their waste and recyclables
  • Uncovering the personal motivations, barriers, deterrents, and drivers behind the public’s recycling habits to understand how best to implement any collection process
  • Uncovering all relevant stakeholder’s unarticulated needs, concerns and potential misconceptions of how waste should be managed at each stage of the recycling process

We look forward to seeing Victoria’s recycling habits improve through this new initiative, so long as the end result can be sustained long-term and the needs of the end-users are championed in the process. Regardless, the initiative is a positive move in the right direction and provides solid groundwork for resource recovery in Victoria.

Read Cobalt’s full published response to Infrastructure Victoria’s initial interim findings here.

Images in this article sourced from and accredited to: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/victorians-to-get-cash-for-bottles-scheme-20200224-p543ms.html

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