Recycling rates could rise significantly with this simple tweak
Posted by admin on 26th September 2019
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Have you ever thought about what happens to the empty Coke cans and food takeout containers you toss in your recycling bins?

Our research suggests that if you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never considered this question. This was surprising to us given that, by definition, a recyclable is a product that has future use.

As consumer psychologists, we wondered if emphasizing this transformation in messages promoting recycling would better motivate people to put more of their empty cans, rigid plastic containers and discarded papers into the blue bins.

Americans are bad recyclers

U.S. recycling rates are abysmal.

About 75% of American waste is recyclable, yet just 30% of it is actually recycled. The figures are even worse with materials like plastic. Less than 10% of plastics disposed of in the U.S. in 2015 were recycled.

We noticed that most recycling messages tend to emphasize negative environmental outcomes from not recycling, such as “save the planet” and “conserve resources.” The problem with such messaging is that it may be perceived as coercive or induce guilt, which is partly responsible for the growing problem of “aspirational recycling,” or mixing non-recyclables in with your recycling.

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