Americans believe Recycling Progress being made over time

Americans believe Recycling Progress being made over time

While the majority of consumers believe many of the issues related to recycling have improved since the 1970s, such as “ease of recycling” and the “amount of waste” that is recycled, most consumers feel the amount of waste in landfills and oceans is worse, according to the first “Consumer Tracker Recycling Survey,” released today by national non-profit Keep America Beautiful and Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a national market research firm

Keep America beautifulThe national recycling survey, conducted online among a representative sampling of 1,000 American adult consumers, focused on measuring consumers’ recycling attitudes and behaviours and, ultimately, what prevents consumers from recycling. The findings of the study are being announced for America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative, which takes place annually on and in the weeks leading up to November 15, 2016

While 71 % of consumers believe both the ease of recycling and the amount of products made from recycled material are better than in the past, and 63 % believe the amount of waste recycled has improved, it’s notable that those surveyed believe the amount of waste in oceans is worse (41 %) and the amount of waste in landfills is worse (36 %). These beliefs could be why consumers offer as their top reasons they recycle are to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills (51 %) and to conserve the earth’s resources by re-using material (43 %). 

“The results of our initial Consumer Tracker Recycling Survey reinforce consumers’ concerns about the environment and their desire to recycle to help allay those concerns,” said Keep America Beautiful Senior Vice President/Recycling Brenda Pulley. “Since consumers are concerned about the amount of waste being generated, it’s not surprising that they are driven to divert waste from the landfill by recycling.”

America Recycles DayWhile consumers indicate a strong desire to recycle at their curb, at work or school, and on the go, they display a level of scepticism about recycling that may be a barrier to more recycling taking place.

Thirty-three percent of respondents indicated that they are “sceptical that the recycling I put on the curb actually gets recycled,” and 27 percent believed “the trash collector puts the recycling in the same truck with the regular trash.” Millennials surveyed had a higher degree of scepticism, with 43 % being sceptical about what happens to their curb-side recyclables and 39 % indicating a belief that their recycling gets mixed with their regular trash. Moreover, 31 % of Millennials (20 % of the general population) believe that the recycling process is harmful to the environment.

“The scepticism consumers feel about the recycling process underscore the importance of Keep America Beautiful and its partners to better educate consumers about how the recycling process works, what recycled materials can become, and the economic and environmental benefits of recycling,” Pulley said.  “America Recycles Day offers a perfect moment in time to motivate and activate Americans to recycle, while educating them about how the process works and what happens to their recyclables.”

Because of their concern about excess waste, consumers are taking notice of how products are packaged and are becoming less tolerant of over-packaged items. In fact, consumers indicated a desire for more packaging that can be recycled (62 %) and recycled content in their packaging (58 %). If a brand or company encourages recycling, 62 % of Millennials (53 % of the general population) indicated a greater likelihood to purchase that product.

Twice as many consumers recycle because it makes them feel better to do so than those who do it simply to reduce their trash collection bill. Further, three times as many consumers recycled to reduce their negative impact on the environment, stating that they feel it’s their personal responsibility to protect the environment as opposed to those who recycle because it is required by their community. 

America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative, takes place on and in the weeks leading into Nov. 15, and is dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. The organization provides an array of tools and resources to help improve recycling in America. By taking the #BeRecycled Pledge, individuals commit to reduce their personal waste; to consistently recycle; and to buy products made from recycled content. Sponsors of this year’s initiative include Amcor, American Chemistry Council, ISRI and Northrop Grumman.

Highlights of the research are available online at  and

NMI conducted an online quantitative study among 1000 consumers, nationally representative of the American adult population, from Septembre 29, 2016, through October 7, 2016. Focus was given to why people do and do not recycle in all venues in which recycling can occur, including at-home and away-from-home (e.g. at school, at work, in public spaces).

At Keep America Beautiful, we want to ensure that beauty is our lasting signature. A leading national non-profit, Keep America Beautiful inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. We envision a country where every community is a clean, green, and beautiful place to live. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful provides the expertise, programs and resources to help people End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. The organization is driven by the work and passion of more than 620 community-based Keep America Beautiful affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the support of corporate partners, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. To donate or take action, visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, like us on Facebook, or view us on YouTube.

NMI is an international strategic consulting, market research, and business development firm specializing in the health, wellness, and sustainability marketplace. ¨

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