12% of students 'can't be bothered' to recycle, reports suggest
Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) recently announced a study on recycling behaviour and habits and it caught my interest, and led to some thinking about recycling.
The study, in conjunction with the University of Essex, seeks to find out why people don’t recycle as much as they say they do. According to CCE’s preliminary research, 75% of British consumers claim to “always” recycle plastic bottles at home, but CCE’s figures show only half of all plastic bottles are collected for recycling.
They want to explore what has been coined a ‘value/action gap’, which is to say CCE and the University of Exeter feel there is a gap between people’s attitudes towards recycling, and them actually recycling items. It will address questions like who are the environmental champions in the home? What is the impact of on-pack information? Is a lack of understanding in the infrastructure partly responsible for low recycling rates?
These questions correspond to an apparent generation gap between recyclers (figures show that more over 55s recycle than those in the 18-24 age group), a number of people saying there should be more on-pack information regarding recycling and a cynicism in a number of those surveyed who believe what they put in their recycling bins doesn’t actually end up being recycled.
This led me to a Google search. I searched “plastic recycling opinion polls” and found one very relevant to myself – recycling habits among university students.
It talks about recycling in general, not just plastics but the study, carried out by SITA UK has some very discouraging facts. According to them, 13% of students (in my opinion this is sort of understandable, given workloads) don’t have time to recycle, and 12% just simply can’t be bothered or don’t care about recycling!
When it comes to plastic bottles, I’m more of a ‘re-user’ than a recycler. If I buy a bottle of water it’ll stay with me until I’m distracted enough to misplace or forget it, and then I’ll buy another one and reuse that one to death.
When I do eventually recycle something, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for reading the package/bottle and seeing whether it can be recycled or not. If it looks recyclable, chances are I’ll throw it in the recycling bin without second thought.
Now after looking at a few local councils’ guidelines on recycling, I understand my flippant approach to recycling probably isn’t the best one. But it seems their approach to recycling isn’t the best one either.
One local council requires residents to sort their recycling and waste into colour-coded boxes depending on material: three bins and two boxes. This is in a city where population is dominated by students – no wonder they can’t be bothered to recycle!
I believe a combination of two things should see recycling rates improve. It wouldn’t necessarily constitute an increase in on-pack information, rather making the information more noticeable. Another thing is ease of recycling, but maybe that’s just the lazy student in me talking.