ISRI poll finds plastics recycling confusion

An online poll by ISRI and Earth911 finds most respondents are unclear about the recyclability of plastics.

August 3, 2014
Recycling Today Staff

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, and Earth911 have released the results of an online poll indicating that more than 60 percent of respondents may not understand what types of plastics are recyclable. More than 1,100 people took part in the poll, which was conducted via the Earth911 website from May 19 to July 23, 2014.

ISRI says the poll results highlight the need for municipalities to better educate consumers about how to collect and handle recyclables. 

“With more and more plastic being produced, it essential that plastic products that have reached end of life enter the recycling stream,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “As long as confusion reigns, consumers are apt to throw away plastics that should be recycled. This Earth911/ISRI Opinion Poll demonstrates a strong need for additional education, particularly by municipalities, on what can be recycled and how to do it.”

ISRI says it is developing plastic scrap specifications and hosting educational workshops as ways to improve the situation. The association also is partnering with other organizations and companies to address the issue of redefining the Nos. 1 through 7 resin code stamps through its membership in ASTM, an organization that develops international voluntary consensus standards.

When asked "What do you find most confusing about recycling plastic," respondents said: 

  • knowing how much food contamination is acceptable, 37 percent; 
  • understanding what types of plastic my municipality accepts in its curbside recycling program, 28 percent; 
  • finding where I can recycle plastics, 18 percent; and
  • the meaning of the recycling numbers, 17 percent.