Behavioural Insights for Communication ‘Better’ Practices: Waste Minimisation in New Zealand

The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment engaged BehaviourWorks Australia to conduct research to identify relevant behavioural insights and principles on waste minimisation communication. The evidence was then collated into the Ministry’s Best Practice Communication Guide for Waste Minimisation.

The Best Practice Guide is part of a strategic approach by the New Zealand government to improve the behavioural effectiveness of central and local government waste-related communication.

The purpose of the Best Practice Guide is to provide support to the wider Ministry staff, local government officials, and the waste sector to improve the effectiveness of their communication to communities, particularly relating to current policy initiatives. These include single-use plastic phaseouts, standardising kerbside recycling and food scrap collections.

The challenge:
Collate and communicate evidence on better practice guidance to improve the behavioural effectiveness of communication to households, with a key focus on recycling and waste reduction behaviours.
New Zealand Ministry for the Environment

What did we do?

We conducted an extensive desktop review on: 

  • Communication best practices and behavioural insights on four key topics: (i) kerbside recycling, (ii) kerbside contamination, (iii) food scraps collection, and (iv) household food waste reduction
  • General communication best practices for social media, print media, and graphic design, and
  • General behavioural insights for effective communication.

Then we created the Best Practice Guide, which sets out the basics of adopting a behaviour change approach. It also contained selected insights for applying behaviour change to the four key waste topics, a library of commonly effective insights, and a checklist for reviewing existing or proposed communication material.

We also hosted two online workshops to introduce participants from the Ministry, local and regional Councils, and the wider waste and environment sector to the Best Practice Guide and also provide an interactive introduction to behaviour change basics. The two workshops involved:

  • Workshop 1: An interactive session that introduced the basics of developing behaviour change communication and also provided specific effective behavioural insights that have been shown to successfully change household waste behaviours in NZ and similar contexts.
  • Workshop 2: Provided hands-on practice to review existing communication against the Best Practice Guide and revise the material for one or more of the four waste topics.

Over 430 people registered to attend the workshops, each received a copy of the Best Practice Guide and recordings of the workshops.

What’s next?

The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment’s ‘Best Practice Communication Guide for Waste Minimisation’ is now available for download on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

At the end of the workshops, over 85% of participants indicated that they were planning to read and use the Best Practice Guide in their work and that they anticipated it would be useful in improving their ability to create behaviour change. It is expected that the Best Practice Guide will support improved communication for waste and environmental outcomes in the months and years ahead.

While the evidence and guidance provided in the Best Practice Guide is tailored to household waste minimisation in New Zealand, the findings are likely to be useful for behaviour change communication in other contexts. 

Read the Best Practice Guide below for guidance on improving behavioural effectiveness of your communication to minimise waste going forward:

Download the Best Practice Guide
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