Call2Recycle CEO & President, Carl Smith, will be a guest blogger for the month of May on Waste & Recycling News. This is the seventh installment, bookmark this site and check back for new posts each week.
Municipalities Struggle with Hazardous Household Waste – May 14,2012
When to Sort the Recyclables – May 11, 2012
Tips for Recyclable Collection and Take-Back Programs at Retailers – May 9, 2012
Product Stewardship Must Be a Shared Responsibility – May 7, 2012
What is product stewardship? – May 3, 2012
Responsible Recycling – May 1, 2012
Recycling surveys offer some surprising results
All the media hyperbole around being environmentally conscious might lead one to believe that everyone participates in recycling. While twice as many Americans recycle now as compared with 20 years ago, that is still only 58% who said they did so on a regular basis in 2011, according to a recent survey by GfK Custom Research North America for SC Johnson. This encouraging increase is tempered by a 2007 Harris Poll that found 30% of those aged 18 to 30 don’t recycle at all.
The younger generation’s poor recycling habits compares to 57% of adults 55 years and older that report recycling daily, according to IPSOS in a recently released survey. The same survey found college graduates recycle at a just slightly higher rate than the U.S. average, while Northeast and Western residents recycle at higher rates than the rest of the country (58% and 56%, respectively).
Most recycling is a home-based activity (72%) with 46% utilizing curbside recycling and 26% taking their items to a local drop-off facility, the same survey reported. People appear to understand the benefits of recycling. In the IPSOS survey, 81% cited helping reduce landfills as an advantage of recycling. But they are confused about what is recyclable. While 36% don’t know that items such as crayons and trophies are recyclable, 77% say that pizza boxes are. When people are unsure of whether an item can be recycled, half say they just throw the item away, while 18% report putting it in recycling. In the case of electronics and the batteries that power them, 44% say they don’t know how or where to recycle old technology, according to a study recently commissioned by Call2Recycle.
The IPSOS poll also asked about barriers to recycling. The most frequent reason given for not recycling more was it not being accessible or convenient to where they live. This was cited by 25% of respondents with 10% reporting that either it was too time consuming or they just forget. Simultaneously, most (52%) said that none of the barriers prevented them from recycling. For electronics, the Call2Recycle survey found that 19% cite there being no local store offering a program.
Americans have become savvier about both environmental problems and solutions. Americans blame environmental problems primarily on “consumers more interested in product convenience than environmental impact,” according to the IPSOS survey. That’s a shift up two positions from 1990 and replaces “factories and plants that cause pollution when manufacturing products.” This suggests a willingness to acknowledge shared responsibility with manufacturers, business and others to reduce the environmental impact of products they consume.
When the Call2Recycle survey asked about extended producer responsibility, more than half (52%) of Americans say that manufacturers should bear the cost of recycling their product after consumers are finished with it. But, they’re almost equally split about their willingness to pay more for an item if a manufacturer took care of its proper disposal — 38% (notably more men than women) say “yes,” while 39% say “no.”
In general, people want to do the right thing. An overwhelming majority of participants in the GfK poll say they feel good when they take steps to help the environment (75%). The Call2Recycle survey found that people feel “green guilt” now more than in the past. Of those responding, 29% admitted to suffering from the knowledge that they could and should be doing more to help preserve the environment, more than double the percentage (12%) who professed to feel guilty in 2009.
This is a positive development. Whether due to the recovering economy or for other reasons, consumers are stimulated to think about the proper disposal of waste and conscious of the impact today’s actions have on the state of our planet. As our and other surveys show, Americans increasingly feel an obligation to recycle. This can only bode well for protecting our environment.