My behavior is often guided by concerns of convenience, guilt, and hygiene when it comes to recycling. I don’t recycle when I can’t find a recycling bin near by, I recycle because I think having little concern for the environment and for consequences (more generally) are immoral, and I don’t keep compost at home because it’s messy and smells bad.
These factors that drive my actions are all negative, but what if recycling could be a delightful experience? What if people recycled because they wanted to?
These are questions that can best be answered by designers because they have the unique quality of imagining alternative futures. Also, because they tend to focus on the users rather than systems, technology, or politics, they are better suited for offering solutions that change people’s perceptions.
One example where a product successfully made consumers want to it is Ilohas water by Coca-Cola Japan. By using a compostable plastic material that allowed the bottle to be 40% lighter, the Ilohas was able to be crunched like no other plastic bottle. The experience of crushing the bottle was so gratifying that kids were stealing each other’s finished bottles just to crush them. It also made it easier to carry the bottle until you found a recycling bin because it would be smaller and therefore fit your purse more easily. Designers can leverage this example, and use a delightful experience as a tool to make composting and recycling more accessible and fun.
Seeing the mountains of wastes at the recycling center was like going to a funeral for products. It definitely made me more mindful of the end-life of my products and made Allan’s argument for the consequences of design more visceral.