Poor quality rubbish

Here’s a problem I see a lot. There’s an issue, in this case countries in the EU not recycling enough rubbish, so the EU decide to drive the right behaviour. They have done this by targeting countries to recycle 50% of their waste by 2013. All good stuff. But what has happened? The quality of the recycled material is proving to be so poor that it’s being rejected by some of the downstream customers (in this case the paper mills). It seems that no-one had sat down and tried to think through the most stupid behaviours possible to make the measure go the right way (recycled volume) whilst not achieving the underlying objective (effective recovery of energy and materials from the waste stream). Here’s the original article.

How do we avoid faulty or partial measures like this? I think you need a few good representatives of the people (or group) being measured. They need to be in a relaxed situation, where there’s no repercussions from being honest. Then you simply ask them “What’s the most stupid thing someone could do to make this measure “go in the right direction” whilst defeating the purpose of the measure?”. My experience is that people are great at this (if they are close to what is being measured) and it also builds buy-in to the new measures as a happy side-effect.

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