Proud to recycle

proudtorecyclegraphicWhen the MARC Solid Waste Management District conducted a survey in 2012, we learned that 67 percent of area residents are recycling more. But how do we feel about it? The Environmental Industry Associations published survey data in November 2013 which suggests Americans are filled with pride when they fill their recycling bins.

Major findings of the online survey include:

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans feel a sense of pride when they recycle and a sense of guilt when they toss a recyclable item in the trash.
  • Americans are split on what they will do with a recyclable item if a recycling bin is not nearby. Nearly three out of five people say they will keep the item until they can recycle it, but just over half also admit they will throw an item away if they can’t find a bin.
  • Most Americans — 74 percent — will make an extra effort to recycle items outside of their homes. More than half report that they are successful in recycling at work, but fewer than one in four people are successful when traveling,  shopping or walking along city streets, or when dining out (see graphic at right).

You can find detailed survey results through the Environmental Industry Associations website, or view the complete survey methodology here (PDF).

Don’t trash that dented can

coke can crushedResearchers at Boston University and University of Alberta found that people are more likely to toss a recyclable item in the trash if the item is imperfect or damaged. Participants in the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research,  normally recycled soda cans 80 percent of the time, but that rate dropped to just 20 percent if the cans were pre-crushed or dented.

The researchers also saw a similar outcome with paper. Participants would likely recycle full pieces of paper but would throw out scraps. The recycling rates for paper scraps went up when study participants were asked to write down what the paper scrap could be used for.

Study researcher Jennifer Argo says that people are psychologically hard-wired to believe that products that are damaged or that aren’t whole — such as small or ripped paper or dented cans — are useless, which leads us to trash them rather than recycle them. She and her colleagues noted that when the scraps were viewed as useful again — such as for writing — the recycle rate jumped back to 80 percent.

So next time you go to throw something out, look beyond the dent in the can or the rip in the paper and see its full recycling potential.

You can learn more about recycling in the Kansas City metro region at RecycleSpot.

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc.