Recycling Psychology

Although it may seem counter-intuitive–consider for a moment that recycling may have us incidentally wasting more, and not only because be we are using the wrong receptacles to recycle.

People used more cups and paper when recycling was an option versus when they had to put them in the trash. Researchers say people’s guilt for wasting is overridden by the good feelings for recycling. At times it can be better to get things that can be recycled easily but have multiple uses to them.

An example of this is in people who are seeking an Eco-friendly sex life. Sex toys are a major issue when it comes to non-recyclables, and so it can be difficult to find products that offer this option whilst also having long-lasting use. The market is growing for this, but mindsets need to change alongside it.

As Shankar Vedantam, NPR social science correspondent explained when ask if recycling was ‘bad’: “No, recycling isn’t bad. It’s actually very good. But in fact, that’s where the problem lies. Recycling is so good that it makes us feel virtuous, and that can lead to problematic outcomes. Let me back up and explain. I was talking to Remi Trudel. He’s a marketing professor at Boston University. He told me he was having lunch at a restaurant with his colleague, Monic Sun, when they noticed something.

Then Remi Trudel continues: We noticed that people were just grabbing napkins, like, way more than they needed. And we started thinking is it because they feel, you know, that it’s OK because they’re going to be recycling it anyways? So then we decided to run some experiments to try to prove it. (Source: NPR)

Visit the NPR transcription of the interview here to find out what results came from their studies!

We all need to do our bit and more when it comes to recycling. Companies who are looking to improve their recycling methods could look into phs Wastekit balers and compactors. They are a great way to deal with waste cardboard. But we also need to remember, just because we are recycling, we shouldn’t use things more than we need to.

CEF FFT: (After reading the NPR transcript…) Do you think people who normally buy single-use cups and utensils would buy glassware or other long-lasting containers for food and drink if they knew about this potential pitfall of the psychology behind how we perceive the impact of our recycling?

(Photo Credit: Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images)

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