NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Social Marketing > Strategies > Prompts

A lot of people have good intentions when it comes to recycling but they forget to do it. Social scientists say this is a main problem with humans sustaining an activity. The use of prompts to remind us can work to change behavior.

Prompts should be made to encourage households to recycle with reminders as to what can be recycled in their community or the day of the week that their recycling will be picked up. Simple prompts can be very effective at reminding and encouraging participation in curbside recycling programs.

    Here are some tips about using prompts:
  • Use eye-catching visuals, sounds and bright colors to make the prompt noticeable.
  • Make the prompt self-explanatory.  For example, “RECYCLE WHITE PAPER HERE” and “ALUMINUM ONLY.” Make the sign aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand.
  • Present the prompt in a location as close as possible to where the action is to be taken. Use kitchen-type giveaways about recycling since most people keep their recycling in their kitchen. Give citizens a decal to put on their recycling bin that lists the items that can be recycled, making it easy to understand! When those items change, simply provide a new decal.
  • Encourage positive behaviors. Prompts should promote recycling. Instead of telling people NOT TO THROW something in the trash, they should be told TO THROW something in the recycling bin.


  Dawn, from Harris Teeter, discusses the use of 'shelf talkers' in the grocery store. Consumers like to be reminded or educated about the products they buy. Using shelf talkers, Harris Teeter indicates which products can be easily recycled once you are through using them. Look at using stickers, door hangers, magnets, key chains, bags, etc. Below are some local government sample prompts.

  • Magnets with local recycling information
    archdalemagnet claytonmagnet

  • Stickers placed near faucets can be used as prompts to remind people to turn off the water or report leaks
  • lightswitch
  • Key chains about oil recycling and anti-littering
    keychain1 keychain2
  • Food scraper for fats, oil, and grease education and a rain gauge for water conservation information
  • rain gaugescraper
  • Koosie for college students
  • koosie
  • Doorhangers for hotel sustainability issues
    door hangersimply green

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Pollution Prevention
North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance
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