Survey Finds Most Americans are Proud to Recycle

New survey data suggests that Americans are filled with pride as they fill their recycling bins, but are often left wanting when searching for recycling options while on the go.

More than 4 in 5 Americans (82 percent) say they feel a sense of pride when they recycle, according to a new survey conducted online in October by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), the trade group representing those who protect the environment and public health by managing America’s waste and recycling.

“Recycling participation rates have increased dramatically during the last few decades in the U.S., and that is an achievement that all Americans should celebrate,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of EIA. “There is positive, pent-up desire to recycle even more in America. But we need more recycling options on our main streets and in our shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, airports, gas stations and other public spaces.”

Most Americans do not indicate success at recycling while out about town, and more than 3 in 5 (62 percent) report feeling guilty every time they throw something away instead of recycling it, underscoring a pressing need for expanded options in public and leisure spaces.

Major findings of the survey include:

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans – 82 percent – feel a sense of pride when they recycle, and 62 percent feel a sense of guilt when they toss a recyclable item in the trash.
  • Americans are split on what they will do with a recyclable item if a recycling bin is not nearby. Nearly 58 percent say they will keep the item until they can recycle it, but 54 percent also admit they will sometimes trash a recyclable item if they cannot find a bin nearby.
  • Most Americans will make an extra effort to recycle items outside their homes (74 percent), and those employed say they often have success recycling at work (58 percent).
  • However, significantly fewer Americans are often successful recycling in other public settings, including when traveling for vacation or business (22 percent), while out shopping or walking along city streets (22 percent each) or when dining out (16 percent).

“Wherever there is a public trash can, there also should be a recycling bin within sight,” said Anne Germain, EIA’s waste and recycling technology director. “People think about recycling and inherently want to, but they need readily available recycling options for the habit to be a no-brainer.”

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