Americans are recycling less, according to two surveys conducted around America Recycles Day on Nov. 15.
A survey conducted by global insights firm Kelton Global on behalf of the American Chemistry Council finds that half of Americans say they recycle 75 percent or more of their recyclable items compared with the national recycling rate of 34.5 percent in 2012, as measured by the EPA.
And a Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries finds younger American adults ages 18-34 are significantly less likely to say they always recycle (33 percent vs. 48 percent of those ages 35+).
In addition, the ISRI survey shows younger Americans ages 18-34 are less likely to say that recycling is critical to reducing energy consumption (36 percent vs. 46 percent of those ages 55-64) and will help reduce landfill space (45 percent vs. 60 percent of those ages 45+). Younger adults ages 18-34 are also more likely to say they wish they recycled more than any other age group (37 percent vs. 22 percent of those age 35+).
The Kelton Global survey says only 8 percent of Americans say they recycle all recyclables. Many Americans say they would recycle more if they had better information about what to recycle, particularly for plastics. Forty-six percent say they are more likely to recycle when they know that an item is recyclable, as opposed to when they are unsure. Among those who say they don’t recycle all the time, 28 percent say it’s because they don’t know which plastic items are recyclable.
This echoes a 2014 National Waste & Recycling Association survey that found that a third of Americans are not clear on what materials go in recycling bins and carts.
Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, says the survey shows better communication and easier access to recycling information will help improve recycling rates.