People recycle more if they know where it goes

People will recycle more if they know what becomes of their disused plastic, paper and metal, according to a new study.

Publishing their work in the Journal of Marketing, the researchers undertook six surveys on recycling.

In fact, only 25.8 percent of waste was recycled in the United States and only 13 percent of municipal solid waste was recycled globally in 2015.

The research team conducted six studies to test how promoting recyclable waste will be transformed into new products (product transformation salience) can increase recycling rates.

In one study that was representative of their findings, the researchers asked participants to dispose of scratch paper. They found that around 80 percent of participants who saw a message saying that their scratch paper would become other products, like new paper or a guitar, were more likely to recycle the scratch paper. Only around 50 percent of participants who saw a generic recycling advertisement were prone to dispose of their scratch paper responsibly.

“The research team found that transformation messaging increases recycling by inspiring people to recycle—in other words, getting people to think about the possibilities from transformation is the key to increased recycling rates,” the American Marketing Association said in a press release.

The findings could explain why consumer habits have often not kept up with recycling programs that are now common throughout the developed world.

They noted, for example, that Americans recycle only around 26 percent of their waste while the average recycling rate for waste globally was a mere 13 percent.

Image credit: Lukasz Dziegel from Pexels

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