- A new survey from the Pew Research Center says that 28% of U.S. residents think their community's social norms "strongly encourage" recycling and reuse, 22% don't encourage it and the rest are in the middle.
- The survey also found that 59% of respondents believe "most types of items" can be recycled in their community, with the people in areas that "strongly encourage" recycling more likely to feel this way.
- Highlighting the potential confusion around recycling options, 48% of respondents said their community had options for electronics recycling while 34% weren't sure.
These findings are part of a larger Pew study around climate change and environmental issues, which found polarized views on the subject. This shows that as more cities establish lofty "zero waste" goals more will need to be done to normalize recycling behaviors. While recycling has become a common part of society over the past 25 or so years diversion rates have leveled off recently and new research points to the possibility that they could be lower than previously thought.
Research from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and others has found that the majority of U.S. residents now have access to some form of recycling program, but the ease and scope of these options vary widely throughout the country. Other recent research points to a possible gender imbalance, with men recycling less than women, and many communities have struggled to boost their diversion rates.
A key part of this will be educating people about what is accepted in their local programs to help avoid contamination which can be costly and difficult for the industry. Ad campaigns, special elementary school curriculum and large community events are also seen as ways to do this. Though as indicated by a recent survey in England, which found people would recycle more if they knew where their material was going, greater transparency may be one of the more complicated but promising solutions.