How Consumers Can Make Recycling a Habit

December 16, 2021   |   Blog

At the Campaign for Recycling Awareness, we spend a lot of time urging people to recycle, but choosing to recycle is only the first step.

A recent behavioral study confirms that. The study found many decisions go into recycling beyond just deciding that recycling is a good thing to do. 

Here are the steps the study suggests are needed for a consumer to form a habit of recycling:

  1. Committing to recycling. 
  2. Having a separate recycling bin within the home.
  3. Remembering that recycling is an option.
  4. Knowing that a product can be recycled in the municipal recycling program.
  5. Knowing how clean a product needs to be before it can be recycled.
  6. Cleaning the product and replacing the lid.
  7. Judging whether others choose to recycle, too.
  8. Viewing recycling as a social norm in which they should participate.
  9. Encouraging others to recycle.
  10. Feeling like a good member of the community for recycling.
  11. Developing a recycling habit. 

“The study revealed that psychological factors cannot be overlooked and play an important role in making recycling a habit,” said Carton Council’s Vice President Fantoni.

There are a lot of steps involved in the actual process of recycling. And the trickiest step is knowing which products can be recycled. 

Plastics, for example, are all stamped with the chasing arrows recycling symbol and a number, but not all of those numbered plastics are widely accepted in recycling programs. Polystyrene foam, for example, is stamped number 6 so it appears to be recyclable, but it can almost never be recycled. Plastics numbered 1 and 2 (clear bottles, milk jugs, and detergent bottles) can be recycled everywhere. 

Cartons and glass, similarly, cannot be recycled in every municipality. Roughly 40 percent of Americans live in areas where cartons cannot be recycled. Consumers may need to seek guidance from their local recycling provider so they know exactly what products will actually be recycled if they are placed in the bin. 

Understanding exactly what can be recycled will give consumers the confidence to help build their recycling habit without becoming discouraged.