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December 2007

Poll shows half of Americans support mandatory recycling
Recycling numbers still gloomy

New research commissioned by the founders of America Recycles Day showed that more than half of Americans support mandatory recycling as a strategy to help reduce global warming.

Yet founders Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis commemorated the initiative’s anniversary by camping out in a landfill to express their dismay at the country’s lack of recycling progress.

“A surprising 76 percent of Americans believe recycling at home can reduce their contribution to global warming,” said Kevin Tuerff, president and principal of EnviroMedia Social Marketing. “We are enthused by the response but aren’t sure Americans really understand the connection and how it helps.”

Recycling now crawls forward at an alarmingly slow pace. The nation’s overall recycling rate skyrocketed 80 percent in the 1990s, according to Environmental Protection Agency figures. Since 2000, the rate has climbed a mere 12 percent.

“Back when we started America Recycles Day in 1997, leaders projected that half of all waste would be recycled by now. We’re at 32 percent, and that’s a huge disappointment for conservation,” said Tuerff.

Of those Americans who believe recycling at home can reduce global warming, 80 percent would support mandatory recycling. The research, conducted by International Communications Research among 1,348 adults, represents a cross section of the United States.

“Recycling can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change,” said Davis. “We need to demand more recycling programs for homes and businesses and break away from the toss-away mentality that has proliferated in America in the last several decades.”

Tuerff and Davis blame the lack of progress on four things: more than 150 fewer curbside recycling programs exist in the United States since 1996; manufacturers’ disinterest in using recycled materials; diminishing community programs and education budgets to remind people to recycle; and the proliferation of plastic water bottles.