Many householders “do not have an accurate understanding” of recycling, or are sceptical of what happens to their waste after it is collected, a study commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises has claimed.
The study, which was carried out by the University of Exeter, also found many householders said they needed “additional space” in the home to house containers for recycling.
According to the research, recycling infrastructure in households must be adjusted with better design solutions. But, it found, aesthetics “are a barrier to recycling”, with few study participants willing to make room for a recycling bin.
The six-month study, ‘Unpacking the Household, observed 20 families, couples and single-person households in the UK and France, and found habits in the home have a significant influence on recycling rates.
Led by the University of Exeter’s Dr Stewart Barr, the study concluded new thinking is needed to “help break bad recycling habits” and the majority of households “do not have an accurate understanding” or are sceptical of what happens to waste once it has been collected.
The report stated: “The majority of households do not have an accurate understanding of what happens to waste once it has been collected for recycling. Householders view recycling as a linear, rather than a circular process. They often assume the recycling process ends when they discard an item.
“For those who do think about their recyclables after they leave the home, there can be a degree of scepticism, with some householders questioning existing collection systems and referencing materials being sent to landfill or exported abroad for sorting or reprocessing. This view is often compounded by negative media stories, with many participants recalling high-profile reports and documentaries around negative recycling processes.
“This misconception and scepticism prevents people from understanding the true value of recycling, often leading to apathy, which represents a major threat to the overall success of the collection and recycling process.”
Following the study, CCE is launching a WRAP-backed campaign – Recycle for the Future – with the aim of identifying why 75% of British and French people claim to always recycle plastic bottles at home, according to a YouGov poll, but recycling rates in both countries remain below the European average of 61%.
The campaign includes an online challenge through design community website OpenIDEO which seeks to find solutions to encourage people across Europe to recycle more.
“The UK has made fantastic progress in recycling during the last 10 years and now recycles four times as much which means we now recycle more than we send to landfill,” said Dr Liz Goodwin, chief executive of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
“This is great news for the environment and economy, but there’s still a lot more we can all do. The Recycling Challenge is a great way to stimulate debate, share expertise and encouraging creativity around recycling to create real change.”