I’ve always wondered why recycling never really hit popular culture (with the exception of Captain Planet. I know there’s at least one 90’s kid out there!) From an efficiency standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to reuse waste product. Case and point, Elon Musk reusing rockets for SpaceX. Despite its benefits over time and especially in spite of recycling’s environmental benefits, trying to convince people to START recycling is tough. But why?
The top reasons that tend to reoccur in studies and news articles are that (1) it takes too much time, (2) its inconvenient, (3) people forget, and (4) people don’t really know what “is” and “is not” recyclable. Compounding these reasons is an additional issue: recycling isn’t universal. That means, something might be recyclable in Orange County, California that isn’t recyclable in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania. I personally have fallen victim to this confusion. I can never remember what numbers of plastic are or are not recyclable in Aspinwall and honestly (until recently) I had no idea how to get rid of a TV, an XBOX, printers, or the like.
I spent a couple hours creating some graphics to place near our recycling container at home and to review if we need to recycle something out of the ordinary. I’m sharing them here (below) and hope you find them helpful.
Citations: Haaland, Marie, New York Post, “More than half of Americans are confused about recycling,” https://nypost.com/2019/04/16/more-than-half-of-americans-are-confused-about-recycling/ (April 16, 2019); Gorilla Bins, “Five Reasons Why People Don’t Recycle and Five Reasons Why We Should,” http://www.gorillabins.ca/blog/five-reasons-why-people-dont-recycle-and-five-reasons-why-we-should/ (2021); Waste Advantage, “Why Americans aren’t recycling,” https://wasteadvantagemag.com/why-americans-arent-recycling/ (April 22, 2019); Shumaker, Erin, Huffington Post, “The Psychology Behind Why People Don’t Recycle,” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/psychology-of-why-people-dont-recycle_n_57697a7be4b087b70be605b3 (August 3, 2016); Aspinwall Borough, https://www.aspinwallpa.com/recycle (2021); County Hauling, https://www.countyhauling.com/hhw-and-e-waste-recycling/ (2021).