The recent Carton Council survey has given us the latest numbers on recycling attitudes and awareness, and the industry is buzzing.
The media is focusing on two major takeaways from the survey. Number one: The general public believes recycling is important. Nearly two-thirds of survey participants reported that recycling should be a priority, and almost one-third said it was somewhat important. On top of that, a whopping 95 percent of participants said they believe recycling has some degree of positive impact on the environment. That’s great news, because it means that most people already have the motivation necessary to recycle. They just need to know how.
Which brings us to the second point the media is highlighting: Citizens don’t only want to be informed, they also want to be reminded. The survey shows that recycling is already a habit for many people — but how can we grow many into most or all? Recycling behavior can be reinforced and improved, and citizens are looking for help. This is why the Recyclist platform offers weekly pick-up day reminders that are paired with recycling tips, capitalizing on 52 opportunities per year to educate our clients’ residents and businesses.
So the survey tells us that recycling is popular, and more education is needed to ensure follow-through. We agree, but after taking a closer look at the reports, we’ve honed in on three upshots that shouldn’t be missed.
1. Your outreach goes further than you think.
If you can educate one person, they will educate others. More than a third of respondents reported that they get community information they trust from friends, and 18 percent reported that they receive recycling-specific information from their friends. So if you’re worried that your outreach has a limited target audience, remember that your message carries a life of its own.
2. Increasing numbers of people are relying on city websites for recycling information.
Plenty of people still rely on packaging for recycling information. That’s bad news, because even when a package is clear about being recyclable, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be recyclable in any given community. The good news is that this is changing. Just between 2013 and 2015, there has been a 25 percent decrease in reliance on packaging for recycling information, and a 15 percent decrease in reliance on product websites. In contrast, there has been a 30 percent increase in reliance on local government sites. Residents are becoming more skeptical of company product information and turning to their local governments to get information they can trust.
3. Effective outreach uses multiple channels.
Citizens rely on different channels to get trustworthy information about their communities. 43 percent of people get trustworthy community information from the news, 29 percent from local municipalities, and 21 percent from email and social media. These are three major pathways for communication. If you’re not taking advantage of all of them, you’re missing key opportunities. When we plan outreach, we often think that one major avenue is going to be enough, but the truth is that people go through different channels to find information. This is part of our strategy at Recyclist, where we provide local information through municipal websites, email and social media, as well as press releases our clients can distribute to news agencies. These numbers remind us that the more channels you utilize, the more people you are likely to reach.
The Carton Council survey, conducted by Research+Data Insights, was based on a 15-minute online questionnaire of close to 2,500 Americans who reported having access to curbside recycling programs in their communities. To access the original PDF reports, visit the Carton Council website.