Increasing Recycling

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Although a majority of Americans express favorable attitudes toward recycling (Dunlap & Scarce, 1991), the amount of material recycled in the United States falls far short of what is considered possible. People fail to participate in recycling programs for a variety of reasons, including indifference and the perceived nuisance of doing so (Howenstine, 1993; Vining & Ebreo, 1990; Vining, Linn, & Burdge, 1992). Several studies have shown that logistic factors, such as the design and placement of receptacles for deposit of trash or materials for recycling, can have an effect on litter control and recycling behavior (Finnie, 1973; Geller, Brasted & Mann, 1979-1980; Humphrey, Bord, Hammond, & Mann, 1977; Jacobs, Bailey, & Crews, 1984; Luyben & Bailey, 1979; Reid, Luyben, Rawers, & Bailey, 1976).

Not surprisingly, people are more likely to recycle if doing so is convenient (e.g., recyclables picked up at curbside) than if it is not (e.g., recyclables deposited by consumer at collection sites; Derksen & Gartrell, 1993; Guagnano,

Stern, & Dietz, 1995; Schultz & Oskamp, 1996; Scott, 1999). Reasons for recycling also vary; not least among them is the intrinsic satisfaction people get from being frugal or participating in environmentally friendly activities (DeYoung, 1986). Having a neighborhood coordinator of recycling activities has been shown to increase recycling in some instances (Burn, 1991 ; Hopper & Nielson, 1991).

Several studies have focused on the possibility of increasing the participation of individuals or families in such programs. These studies have shown that participation can sometimes be increased, at least temporarily, through the use of explicit goals or incentives such as contests, prizes, and rewards (Couch, Garber, & Karpus, 1978-1979; Geller, 1981b; Geller, Chafee, & Ingram, 1975; Hamad, Bettinger, Cooper, & Semb, 1980-1981; Hamad, Cooper, & Semb, 1977; Jacobs & Bailey, 1982-1983; Witmer & Geller, 1976).

Perhaps the most obvious attempt to promote recycling through the use of incentives on a broad scale is the requirement for redeemable deposits on certain beverage containers that has been legislatively mandated in some states. Although beverage containers may seem a small part of the problem, the quantities in which they are sold make them significant. According to Hosford and Duncan (1994), makers of beer and soft drink containers in the United States produce about 100 billion cans a year, or about one can per American per day, and that this output accounts for about one-fifth of all aluminum used in the United States. Currently, again according to Hosford and Duncan, somewhat more than 63% of aluminum cans are recycled. An anticipated increase in production by several billion cans per year, resulting presumably from both increased population and development of new markets, makes clear the importance of increasing this percentage and making recycling programs successful globally.

The use of prompting and reminders to recycle has proved to be moderately effective in some cases (Jacobs & Bailey, 1982-1983; Luyben & Bailey, 1979; Luyben & Cummings, 1981-1982; Luyben, Warren, & Tallman, 1979-1980; Reid, Luyben, Rawers, & Bailey, 1976), as has the provision of information regarding the purpose and details of recycling programs (Hopper & Nielsen, 1991 ; Jacobs et al., 1984), although in some studies the manipulation of these variables produced no effects (Jacobs, Bailey, & Crews, 1984; Pardini & Katzev, 1983-1984; Spaccarelli, Zolik, & Jason, 1989-1990; Witmer & Geller, 1976). In the aggregate, the studies show that prompting, reminding, and information provision can have at least small effects, but they also make it clear that the situation is somewhat more complicated than this claim makes it appear inasmuch as the targeted effects are not always obtained.

In general, successes in motivating participation in resource recovery programs through the use of explicit goals or incentives have been modest. Stern and Oskamp (1987) estimated that behavioral techniques have typically motivated only about 10% to 15% of the people who are eligible to participate in the recycling programs involved to do so. The natural tendency seems to be for early enthusiasm to wane and participation to fall off in time in the absence of continual bolstering (Porter, Leeming, & Dwyer, 1995). In some cases, simple positive reinforcement schemes have even produced unwanted behavior (Geller, 1981b). The results of many studies of recycling behavior, like those of the studies of energy use, are somewhat limited in generality inasmuch as they were obtained with students living in college housing facilities. Among the factors that appear to increase the chances of participation in community-sponsored programs are the scheduling of the pickup of recyclables on the same day as the pickup of the regular trash, the provision of containers by the town, and the minimization of sorting required by residents (Gardner & Stern, 1996). Much remains to be learned about the planning and executing of recycling programs that will effect the lasting changes in behavior that are essential to make real progress on the problem of managing waste in an environmentally sensitive way.

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Trash To Cash

Trash To Cash

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