Survey shows Americans disbelieve common statements made about the recycling industry

ISRI survey shows smaller percentages of respondents tend to believe untruths.

January 3, 2017
Recycling Today Staff
Municipal / IC&I

According to the results of an online survey conducted by Harris Poll and released by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, U.S. adults do not accept common statements made about the recycling industry to be true. When presented a series of statements, four truths and four myths, and asked if each was believable, more than half of the respondents in every case choose not to believe the statement. The true statements, however, were shown to be more believable than those that were false, ISRI says.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of ISRI from Dec. 16-20, 2016, among 2,088 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated, ISRI says.

“For years the recycling industry has fought back against common public misperceptions about the value of recycling,” says ISRI President Robin Wiener. “The data from this poll show that we have been successful in combatting those myths. However, it also shows that much more work needs to be done to educate the public on the many economic and environmental benefits recycling provides, as well as how recycling has evolved as an industry. As the Voice of the Recycling Industry, ISRI will continue to serve as the leader in promoting the value of recycling.”

Respondents were provided with eight statements: four of which were true and four of which were false. For each statement, they were asked if they believed whether it was true.

Of the true statements:

  • Forty-nine percent of respondents said they believed recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Twenty-eight percent said they believed the U.S. recycling industry is highly technical and sophisticated.
  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents believed there are enough materials recycled in the U.S. to meet the production needs of domestic manufacturers (e.g., enough steel to make cars, enough aluminum to make soda cans, enough materials for building construction).
  • Nineteen percent said they believed the history of recycling dates back as early as the cave man.

Of the false statements:

  • Eleven percent believed recyclables placed in a residential recycling bin are just mixed with trash later.
  • Eight percent believed a product made of recycled material is of a lesser quality that one made from new raw materials.
  • Seven percent believed there are no/little economic benefits to recycling.
  • Five percent believed recycling does not save energy or conserve natural resources.

Seventy-three percent of respondents said they believed at least one of the true statements, while 22 percent believed at least one myth to be true.