How much of your trash are you recycling? Nobody deliberately wants to contribute to landfills, yet we all toss things in the trash that are perfectly recyclable. Most of the time, it is isn't really a conscious decision. Rather than thinking through whether the item is recyclable, our mind has been made up for us and into the trash it goes.
A study published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer research looked at some of the reasons people don't recycle. The study's authors, Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta School of Business and Remi Trudel of Boston University, wanted to learn what the effect of product damage and distortion was on recycling. Put more simply: will people recycle a product if it is broken or damaged?
The answer is surprising. The researchers found that once a recyclable item has changed it's form – a dented can, a torn piece of paper – people tended to view the item as without value and tossed it into the trash. The research suggests that changes in packaging that lead to less damage while opening or using products may lead to a greater percentage of materials recycled.
Consider the contrast with this community outside of Cairo. Garbage is their livelihood and everything has value. From the smallest bits to the largest items, the Zaballeen have one of the world's most efficient systems and recycle nearly all of the city's waste including food and textiles.
According to the EPA, Americans manage to recycle about 34.7 percent of their waste. Maybe we should pay more attention to what we are throwing away.
What do you think? Do you toss out paper because it's torn, plastic packaging that's been hacked apart to get products out? Are you more likely to recycle things that still look useful?
We tend to put just about everything in the recycle bin. The man that collects our recycling doesn't hesitate to toss stuff out on the lawn that he can't take so we figure it's all worth a shot.