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Despite the ubiquity of waste disposal in urban environments, there is little standardization of receptacle or signage design within and across jurisdictions. In three experiments, we explored the impact of waste disposal signage design on disposal behavior. Specifically, we were interested in two primary questions in signage design: 1) what type of waste disposal information should be presented; and 2) how the information should be presented. We found that signs containing either icons or pictures of permitted items improved sorting performance compared to signs containing only words of the items; consistent positioning of the signs improved sorting performance compared to random positions for both pictures and icons; and presenting both permitted and prohibited items can interfere with performance when the signs are icons. The current study provides experimental evidence to demonstrate that the design of waste disposal signage can impact waste sorting performance in meaningful ways and highlights the need for graphical signage and bin standardization.
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