SEPTEMBER 2008

WRAP research shows four main barriers to recycling

New research from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has found four main barriers which prevent people from recycling. The study outlines a series of simple steps to help local authorities overcome these barriers. In the last 10 years, recycling rates have increased from 7 to 33 percent and two-thirds of English households are now committed recyclers. This study shows there is great potential for those numbers to go higher if barriers can be overcome.

The study found that the four main barriers are:

  • Physical: when containers for collecting recycling are unsuitable; when there is no space for storage, when collections are unreliable; when people have no way of getting to recycling sites
  • Behavioral: if people are too busy; if they struggle with establishing a routine for sorting out recycling; if they forget to put it out
  • Lack of knowledge: not knowing which materials can be recycled; not understanding how their local scheme works
  • Attitudes and perceptions: not believing recycling is good for the environment; not wanting to sort waste; not feeling personally rewarded for recycling

WRAP found that very different messages and actions are needed by local authorities to overcome these barriers. These will include improving recycling collection services, providing better information and practical advice on how to use the service.

WRAP commissioned the research in autumn 2007 to get a more in-depth understanding of what stops residents from recycling or causes them to recycle less than they could. It involved a survey of 1,512 householders from a sample of nine local authorities in England, regionally representative and covering three different types of recycling scheme.

Significantly, for current recyclers (94 percent of the sample), there were significant barriers that prevented them recycling as much as they could.

  • Situational barriers: 52 percent of current recyclers said they would recycle more if they had collections of a wider range of materials.
  • Behavioral barriers: 48 percent of current recyclers still binned things because they were not sure they could be recycled.
  • Knowledge and understanding: less than half the sample (48 percent) understood “very well” what they were supposed to use their recycling containers for.
  • Attitudes: 86 percent of recyclers would be encouraged to recycle more by seeing the practical impact of their recycling in their local area.