While headlines over the past few years might lead the public to believe otherwise, the reality is that Americans say they are still recycling at the same rate, despite having little confidence that their recyclables actually get recycled. A national poll conducted by Mason-Dixon on behalf of the Carton Council showed that 85 percent of respondents report they recycle.
While people say they are still recycling, they aren’t confident in what happens to those materials once they leave the curb. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of poll respondents are either unsure (21 percent) of what happens to their materials or flat out don’t believe (44 percent) that the materials are being recycled.
The research also reveals that recycling support is highest among younger generations. The largest supporters are ages 18 to 34, with 92 percent reporting they recycle. As age increases, support decreases slightly with 89 percent of 35-year-olds to 49-year-olds, 87 percent of 50-year-olds to 64-year-olds and 68 percent of those 65 and older reporting they recycle.
“This is great news as it shows that the vast majority of Millennials and Generation Z are supportive of recycling despite recent negative publicity,” said Carla Fantoni, vice president of communications for the Carton Council, in a statement. “While recycling is currently facing challenges that began with turmoil stemming from the China restrictions and bans, it is a cyclical industry, and we are seeing investments in both materials recovery facilities and end markets, working to ensure recycling’s future.”
The Carton Council said it has been working hard over the past 10 years to not only increase carton recycling access but also to work with the recycling industry to help facilities and communities get the most out of carton recycling. This includes support and guidance on the best ways to sort food and beverage cartons, brokers to identify end markets and assistance in educating residents that cartons can be recycled and turned into new products.
“We commissioned this research to better understand the impact, if any, on consumers’ attitudes and behavior surrounding recycling,” added Fantoni. “It is reassuring to see a commitment to recycling, even when consumers are unsure of what happens to the materials. This reinforces that we, as an industry, need to work together to ensure recycling is actually occurring and show consumers what happens to the recyclables after they leave their curbs, removing their skepticism.”