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No magic answers to raising recycling rates

9th January 2015 Posted by

The latest edition of WRAP’s recycling, re-use and repair tracking survey (December 2014) identifies recycling attitudes and behaviours that support many of the findings of two SITA UK-sponsored reports: The Ur[bin] Issue (improving urban recycling performance) and Lifting the Lid (student attitudes and behaviours towards recycling). In these reports, we highlighted clear messaging, harmonised collection systems and effective community engagement as key elements of a strategy to raise recycling rates.

The WRAP (self-reported) survey found that householders who were the least confident of what could and could not be recycled, recycled the least – in other words, the recyclable item was placed in the residual waste bin rather than the recycling bin.  These householders stated that “it is confusing in my area what you can and can’t recycle”, and were also least likely to agree to the statement that “I feel I am doing as well as I can with my recycling”.  Seventy per cent of householders who claimed to recycle the most said they received adequate information on kerbside collection, whereas householders claiming to recycle the least said they did not receive adequate information, or were not sure of what to do.

Significantly, the survey identified only a quarter of householders self-reporting as “highly effective” recyclers, the implication being that three-quarters of householders could improve their recycling performance. Intuitively this sounds about right, what with the average household waste recycling rate stalling at around 45 per cent in England.

There are no magic answers to raising recycling rates – we need to get the basics right.  That means giving householders a reason why they should recycle, communicating clear and unambiguous advice on what they can and can’t recycle, avoiding confusion by harmonising what we collect and how we collect as recyclables, and rewarding communities for their efforts.

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