The copy at the tip

I went to the tip this week. I’d been there last about a month ago.

It’s one of those right-on, new age tips where everyone sorts everything and dumps it into huge containers from where it’s easy for a host of specialist recyclers to take it away.

Last time I was there, there was a section named ‘General Waste’. General Waste was for anything that didn’t obviously belong in any of the specialist containers. Not metal. Not wood. Not hardcore. Not paper. General Waste.

Considering the wide choice of specialist containers on offer a lot of people seemed to me to be dumping their stuff in General Waste.

On this trip, however, the General Waste container had undergone a rename.

Now it was called ‘Non-Recyclable Waste’.

“Has it made a difference?” I asked the yellow-jacketed guy looking after tip business.

“Oh yeah!” he replied enthusiastically. “It gets used a lot less now. Don’t know why, but it definitely does.”

We know why, though, don’t we?

‘General Waste’ was a non-accusatory invitation not to bother to sort your rubbish carefully, and just to throw it into the container marked ‘general’. Why not? Doesn’t seem to be doing anyone any harm. It’s just not sorted into types.

‘Non-Recyclable Waste’ is accusatory. It tells you as you read it that if you go ahead and throw anything in here, it will not get recycled, you will not have done your bit for the environment, and it will go to landfill, there to fester for centuries.

It tells you you are bad. Careless. Irresponsible.

The power of copywriting. Use it for good. Even if your job is naming the skips at the local tip.