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Suzanne Shelton with GreenBiz suggests the following steps to engage Americans in recycling:  

  1. We need to continue communicating about — and demonstrating action on — plastic waste

Remember, we’re all hearing less about environmental issues and noticing fewer bans on plastic waste and fewer actions taken by retailers and restaurants on plastic waste, and that has a direct correlation to our own awareness and action. We need to keep the steady drumbeat of communications and action going if we want to bring people along.

  1. We need to continue our curbside programs and make them really work.

When these go away, we will see a massive backslide in recycling behaviors. This means we need to ensure that our system works, and that what gets thrown in the bin actually gets recycled. Given that will require massive infrastructure changes (and probably policy changes as well), as a stop-gap we need to:

Teach them to “look before they toss”: Only 22 percent actually look at the label on an item to see if it’s recyclable before chucking it in the recycling bin. Most haven’t noticed the new “How to Recycle” label or find it too hard to read. We need a massive campaign on this.

Teach them what’s actually recyclable; back to the earlier point, many consumers feel bad about using single-use plastics, so their tactic for assuaging their guilt is to throw everything into their bins. That means they’re throwing a lot of things in that aren’t actually recyclable, which is rooted in a pretty big lack of understanding of what’s actually recyclable. 

Study Results

For example, when shown pictures of various types of used packaging and asked what should be done with them — put them in the recycling bin, the trash bin, or some combination — Americans don’t pick the right answer as often as you’d hope. 

My favorite is the plastic creamer bottle with the plastic sleeve/wrap around it. 69 percent say they’d put the entire package in the trash can, 22 percent say they’d put the entire package in the recycling container and 9 percent say they’d put parts of it in the trash can and parts of it in the recycling container. So 91 percent of Americans get this wrong, despite these bottles having a How To Recycle Label displayed, telling them what to do.

What is a Solution?

The point is that Americans have a mixed level of understanding about what’s recyclable and what’s not. And despite the progress made by getting the How To Recycle label onto so many products, it’s just not enough. 

We either have to teach them to look before they toss and help them see what’s actually recyclable or, better, encourage them to put it all in the Blue Bin and upgrade our recycling system and technologies so that it all actually gets recycled.

See the article at GreenBiz for more information.

Sources: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/engaging-middle-america-recycling-solutions

Source Name: GreenBiz

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