Now we turn to the real question: why aren't consumers recycling on a more consistent basis? Again we turned to our online consumer research panel and asked those with curbside recycling access who don't recycle regularly a simple question: Why not? What behaviors and attitudes can Recyclers act upon to educate their customers and encourage more recycling?
Well, like any complex problem, there's no one single answer. Lack of knowledge of what's recyclable and being unsure how to get questions answered play a big part (28%). Recyclers can raise awareness through careful and consistent messaging.
But just as significant as knowledge is overcoming basic laziness (29%). Sorting your recycling from your trash takes effort, and not everyone is willing to expend energy to do so. Recyclers may not be able to motivate them, but another concern is addressable, and that's scheduling – having trash and recycling pick-up on different days can de-motivate consumers to recycle (15%).
Another challenge is forgetfulness. Some folks are willing to recycle, but it slips their mind to do so (25%).
Education could help promote a feeling of responsibility and elevate recycling's importance:
• I don't feel that whether or not I recycle makes a difference (14%)
• Recycling isn't important to me (10%)
• I'm not convinced recycling helps the environment (8%)
By raising awareness of the importance of recycling and providing clear messaging about what is and isn't recyclable Recyclers can make strides to increase compliance in the communities they serve. Of course, the ultimate "win" would be universal single-stream hauling, where trash and recyclables can be put out on the same day in the same bin, and the hauler is responsible for sorting. That addresses most consumer concerns, and opens the gateway to higher participation... but it's a higher cost solution. In the meantime, we can encourage Recyclers to remind their customers of their service offerings and do their best to raise consumer awareness that every little bit helps.
VP / Research Management
Michele likes to hijack TRC's online consumer panel to get relevant answers to her burning research questions. She loves asking questions relating to her favorite hobbies - TV and movies, golf, casino gambling and travel - and more often than not the answers can be generalized across industries.