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Poll: Americans Tend Not to Believe What They Hear About Recycling

New survey shows people much less likely to believe myths

(Washington, DC) – Regardless of fact or fiction, a new survey released by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and conducted online by Harris Poll, shows 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.

“For years the recycling industry has fought back against common public misperceptions about the value of recycling. The data from this polls shows that we have been successful in combatting those myths,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “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 them were true statements and four were false. For each they were asked if they believed the statement was true. The results are as follows:

True Statements:

  • Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions: 49 percent believed to be true.
  • The U.S. recycling industry is highly technical and sophisticated: 28 percent believed to be true.
  • 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): 27 percent believed to be true.
  • The history of recycling dates back as early as the cave man: 19 percent believed to be true.

False Statements:

  • Recyclable material placed in a residential recycling bin is just mixed with trash later anyway: 11 percent believed to be true.
  • A product made of recycled material is of a lesser quality that one made from new, raw materials: 8 percent believed to be true.
  • There are no/little economic benefits to recycling: 7 percent believed to be true.
  • Recycling does not save energy or conserve natural resources: 5 percent believed to be true.

73 percent believed at least one of the true statements, while 22 percent believed at least one myth to be true.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of ISRI from December 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. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Mark Carpenter.

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The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is the Voice of the Recycling Industry. ISRI represents approximately 1,300 companies in 21 chapters in the U.S. and 34 countries worldwide that process, broker and consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics, and textiles. With headquarters in Washington, DC, ISRI provides education, advocacy, safety and compliance training, and promotes public awareness of the vital role recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, the environment, and sustainable development. Generating more than $105 billion annually in U.S. economic activity, the scrap recycling industry provides nearly half a million Americans with good jobs.

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