Recycling bins work better when they have holes in them

34 percent better says Rutgers psychology professor Sean Duffy. Why?

We have several speculations. First, people generally discard waste while in the process of doing something else, like talking on the phone. Perhaps the little hole increases the salience of the bin, the visual equivalent of screaming, “Yo! I’m a recycling bin.” Or maybe there’s something fun and childlike about dropping an object through a tiny hole. Why it works is unclear, but the important thing is that it works; and if you are designing or purchasing new recycling bins, I suggest that if you don’t like picking through trash, buy the one with the little hole.

Hat tip: Monica Hamburg.

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One Response to “Recycling bins work better when they have holes in them”

  1. Jeff Says:

    In the mail room where I work, there is a garbage can with your standard large square hole, and a sign that reads “This is not a garbage can.” It took me a few days before I realized that what they meant was, “This is not a garbage can, this is a recycling bin.” And here I suspected someone was doing a comical imitation of Rene Magritte’s “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”.

    Ironically, in the second floor lounge there are two identical cans both with small round holes, one of which is for garbage and the other for recycling. I often find myself folding garbage in strange ways to cram it in there. Did I mention I work in a Psychology building?

    The moral of the story is, if you want people to recycle, make your recycling bins look like recycling bins.

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