ISRI poll shows ways to make recycling easier

More than 80 percent of Americans would like to see manufacturers add a "recycling guide" label on their products.

October 11, 2018

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has partnered with The Harris Poll to conduct a study among more than 2,000 Americans Sept. 17-19 to determine how brands and government can play a role to increase recycling rates.

According to the poll, about 66 percent of Americans agree that “if a product is not easy/convenient for me to recycle, I probably would not recycle it.” The poll also provides insights into ways that brands and government officials can better drive recycling. 

“Understanding what is recyclable and what is not can be confusing,” says Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “The easier it is for people to understand if a product is recyclable, the more likely it is to make its way to the recycling stream. This includes not only making products that are easy to recycle through design for recycling and product labeling but making recycling convenient through collection efforts.”

The following are a few takeaways from ISRI and Harris Poll's survey:

  • The majority of Americans (about 81 percent) would like to see manufacturers or retailers display a “recycling guide” label on products (similar to the Energy Guide label on appliances) that would detail the parts and percentage of the product that could be recycled and how to do so. Having this information more prominent may help Americans consider these aspects of their product when making a purchase, or it could also encourage recycling of the product or package when disposing of it.
  • Younger Americans (ages 18-34) are more likely to consider the products packaging than older Americans (ages 34 and older)—including whether the packaging can be recycled (17 percent of younger Americans versus 11 percent of older Americans), what the package is made of (16 percent of younger Americans versus 9 percent of older Americans) and whether the package is made from recycled materials (16 percent of younger Americans versus 8 percent of older Americans). This could be an important aspect for brands targeting the purchasing power of millennials.
  • The government can also set an example for Americans by prioritizing recyclable materials. According to the survey, about four in five Americans (80 percent) agree that governments at all levels should prioritize the use of recyclable products [or materials] when making purchasing decisions. Recycling is demand driven, so increasing the use of recyclable materials in manufacturing is critical to the success of recycling. This is also an important takeaway for brands participating in the government procurement process.
  • The survey also found that 86 percent of U.S. adults agree recycling collection sites need to be more readily accessible to consumers. Additionally, the study looked at Americans’ attitudes toward curbside collection programs.

“Promoting recycling goes far beyond corporate social responsibility for brands,” Wiener adds. “This survey reveals that clearly indicating a product’s recyclability, as well as the use of recyclable packaging, could have a positive impact on a brand’s bottom line. This makes good, economic sense and is a win for the environment.”

According to ISRI, the full study is posted online.