People recycle more if they know what recyclable waste becomes: Study

Washington: In order to increase plastic recycling rates, we need to change the conversation from ‘where does plastic go’ to ‘what does plastic create’, as a new study has observed that consumers recycle more when they think about what such plastic waste can be transformed into.

According to the study published in the Journal of Marketing, sustainability programs around the world are fast becoming a staple of the private sector. However, consumers’ recycling habits have not kept pace. In fact, only 25.8 per cent of waste was recycled in the United States and only 13 per cent of municipal solid waste was recycled globally in 2015.

The research team conducted six studies in which participants were asked to dispose of some scratch paper. Participants who saw paper being transformed into the same product or a different product recycled more than participants who saw a generic recycling message not involving product transformation.

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The second study showed that participants who viewed advertisements for products made from identified recycled plastic items were more likely to recycle than those who viewed advertisements for products that only mention the company engages in recycling practices.

The third study compared three messages to confirm that transformation salience increased recycling even when no specific product output is identified from the transformation. The research team found that transformation messaging increased recycling by inspiring people to recycle. In other words, getting people to think about the possibilities of transformation is the key to increased recycling rates.

“This research has important implications for companies and organizations seeking to increase recycling rates.

These studies provide compelling evidence that when consumers consider that recyclables are transformed into something new, they recycle more. Increasing transformation salience among consumers should be a priority for any organisation seeking to increase collection rates. Increased recycling offers not only societal and environmental benefits but also provides the source materials companies need for sustainable production of goods in a circular economy,” concluded Karen Page Winterich, the author of the study.


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