Recycling Bias? Do You Have It?

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What Is Recycling Bias and Do You Have It? #WasteNotWantNot

In the next installment of our #WasteNotWantNot series, we look at how people determine what to recycle. Studies conducted by researchers at Boston University have uncovered a recycling bias in how people dispose of items.

Remi Trudel, a marketing professor, found that an items perceived usefulness often causes people to unconsciously determine whether to toss that item in a trash can or a recycling bin. For example, most people will throw a whole sheet of paper in the recycling bin, but fragments of paper typically end up in the trash can.

Are You Tossing Recyclables in the Trash Can?

The researchers hypothesize that people evaluate an items usefulness to decide if that item should go in the trash or recycling bin. The prevailing thought is if an item is still useful, it can be recycled. If an item is not useful it belongs in the trash.

On some level this logic makes sense. Recycling gives new use and purpose to materials. If it is no longer useful can it ever become useful again? When it comes to recycling it does not matter how useful an item is at the moment of sorting.

Dented soda cans and torn pieces of paper can be recycled just as easily as perfectly shaped soda cans and entire sheets of paper. Being aware of this bias can help you make more informed decisions, and ultimately will ensure everything that can be recycled is recycled.

Managing the Waste Stream Ensures We Get the Most Out of Resources

So much of the trash sent to landfills just does not belong in landfills. Materials that can be recycled or composted should not go in the trash. Recycling gives new life and new purpose to materials like plastic, paper, glass and metal. By recycling such items virgin resources are spared and we can continue to reuse existing materials.

Not all municipalities offer composting, but this is a great way to reduce the materials sent off to the landfill and allows for every ounce of usefulness to be wrung from so called garbage.

Think Before You Throw

Trudel, the marketing professor, is conducting additional research to help people make informed decisions regarding how to dispose of trash. So next time you go to toss something in the garbage can, stop and think about if it really belongs in the garbage, or if the recycling bin is a better fit. Remember to #WasteNotWantNot and #GoReusableNow!


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