Effective communication between waste management organisations and citizens is essential to the efficient operation of waste management services. Citizens need to know what services are available to them, and the schedule and requirements of that service, in order for those services to be efficiently used. Citizens are also more likely to undertake waste sorting and recycling activities if they know what happens to waste that is sent for recycling, and the associated environmental benefits.
An effective way to improve attitudes towards waste reuse and recycling is to integrate waste management education into school curriculum and particularly teaching children about the causes and consequences of waste disposal and highlighting the importance of waste prevention, reuse and recycling. Local authorities and/or waste management organisations can facilitate this by undertaking outreach activities, sending representatives to local schools or inviting schoolchildren to facility tours or open days, etc.
Best practice in awareness-raising is to effectively encourage waste prevention, reuse and recycling behaviour within the waste collection catchment area. Ultimately, this should translate into improved performance across key waste generation and separation indicators. Particular emphasis is placed on reaching all stakeholders, including non-native speakers via multilingual or pictorial communication ad via school activities. Best practices for awareness-raising campaigns need to:
- ensure continuity, consistency, complementarity and clarity of all communications with well-defined aims and objectives;
- create clear messages appropriate to, and directed at, well-defined target audiences;
- ensure efficient delivery through the integration of activities and clear lines of responsibility.
Well designed and developed awareness campaigns may contribute to the overcome of the two main barriers to recycling; the lack of knowledge where information about proper waste segregation is communicated to the citizens and changing attitudes and perceptions and keep people motivated to avoid and sort waste.
The awareness campaigns for citizens can be delivered directly by the waste management organisation, by professional agencies on their behalf, or by partner organisations (including stakeholders in other sectors). A whole range of communication channels can be used, which can include advertising, public relations, direct marketing, community engagement, online engagement, social media and product labelling.
Last but not least, the improvement of the uptake of the waste management services results in better economic performance as well.