According to a recent Ipsos survey of over 1,000 US adults (one of the world’s largest market research organizations), nine in ten adults in the US (87%) report that they recycle, though only half of adults (51%) recycle every day. Roughly a third (36%) tend to recycle less frequently, while13% admit that they never recycle.
Who Does Recycle?
It seems that willingness to recycle is linked to education, age and location.
Why Do We Recycle?
It is good to see that most adults recycle as it is good for the planet – reducing landfills, saving trees and conserving energy. Many also believe that recycling has economic benefits, such as creating jobs (45%) and making money (33%). According to the EPA, for every 10,000 tons of solid waste going to landfill, 1 job is created. If the same amount of waste is kept out of landfill it can create 10 recycling jobs or 75 materials reuse jobs. If the US were to achieve a 75% recycling rate by 2030, this could create between 1.5 and 2.3 million NEW jobs.
Fortunately, very few are unsure of the benefits (3%) or do not see any of these as advantages.
Reasons NOT to Recycle?
Though many acknowledge the many benefits of recycling, the top reason given for not recycling is that it is not accessible or convenient to where they live (25%). This should be seen as a failure of state and local government for not making recycling more available to them.
Some give the excuse that it takes too long or that they just forget, that they aren’t sure what is recyclable and what isn’t (8%). This is also a failure to EDUCATE residents by providing them with simples accessible information you see below.
A minority thing that recycling costs too much and very few report that ideological concerns prevent them from recycling more often, such as feeling their efforts wouldn’t make a difference (3%), not thinking it’s important (2%), or not understanding the environmental benefit (1%). At the same time, a majority (52%) reports that none of these barriers prevent them from recycling.
We need remove the uncertainly surrounding recycling to target those 50% who throw things away without making an effort to recycle.
How and What Do We Recycle?
Nearly three quarters (72%) report that they recycle to most at home, either through curbside recycling (46%) or by taking their recyclables to a local recycling center (26%). Just 6% say that they recycle most at work, though this proportion jumps to 11% among full-time workers. One in ten (10%) say that they recycle elsewhere and 12% report that they do not recycle at all.
The most commonly recycled items include plastics, such as water bottles and packaging (69%); metals, such as soda cans and soup cans (64%); newspapers (56%); other paper products such as cardboard boxes, magazines, junk mail, etc. (56%); and glass, such as jars and juice bottles (49%). Fewer report that they most recycle electronics, such as CDs or old computer parts (14%) or other items (4%).
While majorities say that they recycle plastics, metal and paper products, there does some to be some confusion about which items can be recycled and which cannot. While majorities understand that cell phones (78%) and motor oil (67%) can be recycled, many are unaware that other, less typical items can also be recycled, such as trophies (36%) and crayons (36%). Conversely, many may be trying to recycle items that are not actually recyclable, such as pizza boxes (77%) and juice boxes (73%). Waxed paper and cardboard that is contaminated by food cannot be recycled.
Similarly, many adults are unconscious of the fact that certain household items are often made from recycled paper. A third (34%) report that they would be most surprised to learn that cat litter can be made from recycled paper, followed by greeting cards (8%), egg cartons (6%), and phone books (5%). However, nearly half (48%) say that they would not be surprised to learn that any of these items are made from recycled materials.
Perhaps some of these misperceptions about what can be recycled and what can’t stems from a lack of information. Nearly half (47%) say that they haven’t learned anything about recycling in over six months and 12% report that they have NEVER learned anything about recycling. At the same time, some are exposed to this information more regularly, with 13% reporting that they are flooded with information about recycling and an additional 29% saying that they learned something about recycling in the month.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted May 2-5, 2011. For the survey, a national sample of 1,004 adults aged 18 and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel were interviewed online. Weighting was employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been if the entire population adults aged 18 and older in the United States had been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.A