Do We Suffer from Psycho-Recycling Inhibitions?
Have you ever wondered what stops people from recycling? Is it too much of a hassle? Do they forget? Or is it simply that they just don’t care?
A simple Google search shows tons of research focused on understanding the intricacies of recycling behavior. For example, a very recent study from the University of Alberta found that the smallest details can lead to big changes in behavior.
When Something Isn’t ‘Whole’
Jennifer Argo, a marketing professor in the University of Alberta’s School of Business, says that damaged products or products that aren’t whole — such as ripped paper or dented cans — can more often end up in the trash rather than the recycling bin. The reason is humans are psychologically wired to believe that anything damaged is useless.
During study observations, Argo and co-author Remi Trudel of Boston University, found that once a recyclable item ceased to retain its whole form, users demonstrated an “alarming tendency” to throw it away.
“When items become damaged, they differ from the ‘prototype’ or ideal version of that product, and as a result, they are perceived as being less useful. As consumers, we tend to equate things that are useless with garbage,” Argo said.
The Power of Influence
Social norms—the unwritten rules on what is acceptable behavior—also have a major impact on the way we recycle. Humans, especially Americans, adhere to social norms as a way to feel socially accepted.
Social psychologists have found that not only are people worried about other people’s recycling behaviors, they are just as worried about what other people are thinking about theirs. This means that if a person sees that a friend, family member, or neighbor isn’t recycling, they may not recycle either, out of fear of being judged. This power of influence works the same way with people seeing that their friends, family member, or neighbors are recycling and they would, too, to not feel like an outcast.
The sad reality is that, as a whole, we simply aren’t recycling all that much. In fact, data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year reported that the overall percentage of materials being recycled in America in 2014 was only 34.6%.
How You Can Help
In addition to setting a good example by recycling yourself, you can encourage those around you at home and at work to recycle by using these tips recommended by the EPA.
1. At the workplace
Engage and motivate your coworkers to buy green products and to help reduce waste. If your office or workplace isn’t already, find out how it can go green. This may include having recycling bins located around the office, and purchasing energy efficient items with the ENERGY STAR® logo.
2. In your community
You can make a difference in your community by recycling and encouraging neighbors to do the same. Organize recycling drives and take the items to a local recycling center or even a charity in need, depending on what type of items you collect. You can even create a community drop-off site if one already isn’t established. Let neighbors know through word-of-mouth, email, and by posting on social media/community websites.
Also, while we’re on the topic of recycling: be sure to visit our blog on common recycling mistakes to make sure that you and the ones around you are recycling correctly!
And remember, Planet Aid accepts all types of clothing, even items that are worn and torn. Click here to find a bin near you!
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