Where are they now?
Your old VHS machine. The iPhone 3 that wouldn’t hold a charge. That laptop that kept crashing so you upgraded, wiped it and eventually threw it out.
These unwanted electronic and electrical items are called e-waste and instead of being recycled, they’re probably sitting in a landfill site slowly breaking down and leaching hazardous materials into the surrounding soils.
They’re also a source of perfectly good copper, silver – even gold.
So, how do we prevent this kind of pollution?
The Victorian Government is developing a new waste management policy for Victoria to reduce (and eventually stop) e-waste going to landfill.
The policy is expected to come into effect by mid-2018 supported by a communications and education campaign.
To provide insights and direction for both the campaign and broader policy, BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA) was engaged to conduct behavioural research on key target audiences.
Who, what and why
The largest unregulated groups disposing of e-waste are small to medium enterprises and householders. These are the targets for behaviour change; the aim being to encourage these groups and individuals to take their e-waste to a transfer station for recycling at the next opportunity.
The attitudes and beliefs held by these two groups – why they may or may not take e-waste to the local transfer stations – is critical in proposing any changes to current practices.
BWA developed a state-wide survey to identify what control beliefs these groups held around recycling, past behaviours, likely timing of e-waste disposal, preferred sources of information and what their intentions might be with regard to future e-waste recycling behaviours.
What we know – and need to know
The key research findings suggest lack of knowledge is a real hurdle to changing recycling practices.
Many of us don’t know what the term e-waste means, what can actually be done with it, or even where our local transfer stations are.
When it comes to disposal, we seem to give old electronics away, store them somewhere or put them out in the hard rubbish. Anything with data, like computers, we tend to keep and store out of privacy concerns. And whichever method we use, we tend to stick to it. Humans are creatures of habit after all.
Predicting which groups are more likely to do the right thing comes down to a few (not surprising) factors. You are more likely to take e-waste to transfer stations if:
– you think it’s a good idea
– you can do it easily
– you think others would do it
– you believe it will actually be recycled
– your workplace does it as a regular thing, and;
– you know where to take it.
Overall, people want to do the right thing, even if they currently don’t bother, or don’t know how.