From the burning of waste to indiscriminate dumping, the management of waste continues to pose a problem to communities and governments alike. In an article written in the NEWSDAY on May 5th 2022, it speaks about the need for a strategic management plan for the landfill sites in pursuit of an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, where the separation and collection of recyclables are at the core. It also mentions the need to encourage the national public to participate more in recycling activities and although I certainly agree, a critical part of the discussion remained absent – how does education fit into this plan? Is the education of waste a waste of time? You can read the full article here.
It doesn’t stop there. Another challenge exists within public education and awareness itself. We have been doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result, and we all know what that is the definition of? So the question becomes, how can we truly get the population to engage in waste-positive behaviour?
I have read countless articles and attended many conferences about the need to increase public education and awareness but then I asked myself, have we really considered what that means? Is the education of waste a waste of time?
For a long time, we have focused on the delivery of the information as it pertains to waste – what I call the WHAT. For instance, telling the communities about the recycling activities we want them to engage in, but never really focusing on the HOW.
Here are some tips and questions you must consider before the roll out of your environmental and/or waste activities to truly encourage the behaviour change you want to see:
- How are you going to roll out the delivery of information?
What I refer to here is, what are the mechanisms that you will use? For example, would you use videos, face-to-face, focus groups, social media or a combination of them? In my work as an educator, I highly recommend the use of personal communications to increase reach and truly bring about the kind of behaviour we want to see. You CANNOT DEPEND on social media ALONE!!
- Have you addressed the barriers preventing people from engaging in the behaviour?
Often, the focus is placed on the new behaviour without considering the current challenges and what would need to be addressed. What are the things that can be put in place to encourage this new change? I spoke about this is another blog about wanting to change and unsure of where to begin here.
- Have you considered working with a member of the community to aid in your efforts?
If this community is new to you, it is wise to collaborate with an organisation that is visible and active within the community. They can ‘ease’ you in and create buy-in that would have been incredibly difficult to achieve had you gone on your own.
The types of campaigns you use also play a critical role in how information is disseminated. You must ask yourself, “What is important?” Is it increasing knowledge? Is it about the generation of an emotional connection to the problem? Or, maybe it’s both? Once you have decided on this, your campaigns can then be built around it.
These are just some of the things you need in your waste or environmental education arsenal if your true goal is to change behaviour. Without it, as we say in Trinidad and Tobago, you will be “spinning top in mud” meaning you‘ll just be going around and around with no real end.
So for us to truly bring about the changes we want to see locally and nationally, EDUCATION must be an integral part of whatever you choose to do. For it is not always about doing things better, but sometimes we simply need to DO BETTER THINGS.