You and your fellow U.S. citizens produced 4.4 pounds of waste per day during 2000. This is the equivalent of over 1600 pounds of trash per year per person or more than 220 tons of waste being generated each year.1 Although recycling has been increasingly integrated into many communities, the overall recycling rate in recent years has only been growing a meager 1-2% per year nationwide.1 This slow growth rate indicates that even those people who have the access and ability to recycle are still not making the extra effort to do it. 80% of those who actually do recycle are only doing so occasionally.1 Why do we throw away and not recycle? If resources and technology for the process are increasing, why aren't growth rates following suit?
[...] Several studies have attempted to reason why Blacks are more reluctant to recycle and participle in environmental activities in general. One particular study by Arp and Kenny (1996) suggested that the reluctance of Blacks to participate comes from their belief that each individual has little chance of inducing meaningful change. A greater proportion of Blacks occupy a “marginal position in American society” when compared to whites, which causes Blacks to focus more on efforts that bring about observable change and a greater sense of personal efficacy and power. [...]
[...] Otherwise, the cost to recycle these goods can vastly exceed the benefit. By 2002, many cities began to realize that the lack of education was causing just that: the costs exceeded the benefits. As seen in the figure, the total number of programs nationwide plummeted from 2002 to 2005 due precisely to these reasons. Fig Interestingly, there has been a slow but significant increase in the number of programs from 2005 to the present day. Starting in 2005, there has been a trend toward a new and more efficient approach- “single-stream” curbside collection programs. [...]
[...] Even in areas where availability is prevalent, people are still simply not recycling. How do we account for such discrepancies? Polls, surveys, research, and even basic intuition say that these two factors are the most important and largest barriers. Could there be a factor even more inhibiting than what all of these findings suggests? Our Proposal: The Camel-Hump Model We believe that the process of recycling is depending on two main factors. The first, as described previously, is availability. Simply put, we won't recycle if we can't! [...]
[...] Simple polls and surveys only give surface-level explanations. The actual factors causing these explanations are much more intricate and complex. These personal differences, although hard to explain (let alone, measure) have a dramatic effect on your behavior that is much harder to predict. The research has shown that recycling is by no means an easy task to address. As our model suggests, simply adding money into the system, increasing the amount of programs, or placing recycling bins in effective locations are effective primary measures. [...]
[...] More importantly, it tells us that there are definite similarities between the people and cultures of those who do recycle versus those who do not. Although it is impossible to pinpoint what part of being a Democrat increases your tendencies to recycle, the research simply suggests a strong correlation. Differences in Education Another demographic showing discrepancies in environmental behavior and recycling practices are those of different educational backgrounds. Studies from the Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) in Sydney, Australia have shown that individuals with a degree are more concerned with the environment. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee