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Waste & Recycling January 17, 2017 12:30:20 PM

94% of US consumers have access to recycling, finds new study

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
The report is based on study conducted in over 2,000 communities during late 2015 and early 2016.

94% of US consumers have access to recycling, finds new study

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster): According to “2015-16 Centralized Study of Availability of Recycling” report prepared by Ann Arbor, Michigan based RRS in association with Moore Recycling Associates Inc., 94% of US consumers have access to recycling. 6% of the US population has no recycling programs available. However, the report also states that recycling programs in the US could be made more accessible and easy to use for residents.

The report is based on study conducted in over 2,000 communities during late 2015 and early 2016. The study was conducted on two groups of sample communities. The first group consisted of over 1,600 communities, consisting of the largest communities in each state, in total representing at least 50% of each state’s population. The second group consisted of samples from approximately 500 smaller communities across the nation. Both samples were drawn from a custom data set of approximately 41,000 geographies as defined by the US Census Bureau. Although the primary method of data collection was third-party verification, phone surveying was also used in several situations.

According to the study, out of 94% US consumers who have access to recycling, 73% have access to curbside recycling, while 21% have access to drop-off recycling programs. Nearly 6% has no access to recycling programs. Of the 73% of US consumers with access to curbside recycling, 53% are automatically provided recycling services, 14% have access to subscription programs, whereas 6% have access to opt-in programs.

Among different areas of the country, Northeast region reported highest recycling availability. The recycling program availability in the Northeast region stood at 96%. The recycling availability in other regions was as follows: South (93%), Midwest (92%) and West (89%).

The study notes that 44% of the population served by single-family based curbside programs used large rolling carts. Traditional recycling bins were used by 23% of the population, whereas 18% used other containers for recycling. 16% of the population was provided with multiple options for containers. Also, 89% of single-family curbside recycling programs used single-stream collection, while only 10% utilized dual stream collection. Only less than 1% was served by mixed waste or source-separated collection.

As per study findings, the use of best practices has to be promoted to make recycling services more accessible and easy for residents to use. Inconvenience acts as a main reason for reduced participation in recycling programs. For instance, the recycling rate has declined sharply in cases where residents have to drive to a drop-off location. Inconvenience is also a major contributor to the low uptake rates for opt-in programs.

Another barrier to success of recycling programs is the high cost associated it. The fees required to start recycling or obtain a new bin is very high. The high fee has led to reduced participation in such programs by low-income households. Also, lack of consistency in recycling programs creates confusion among residents as to what is accepted and what is not accepted by recycling programs. Quality awareness and education campaigns must be introduced to make it clear to residents on what is and isn’t accepted for recycling in the community.

The study also analyzes recycling availability for 49 types of packaging. 60% or more of the US population has access to recycling programs for materials such as PET, HDPE, PP, LDPE, PVC and other bottles/jugs and jars; bottle caps; PET containers, trays, clamshells and lids; aluminum beverage cans; glass beverage bottles; aluminum and steel aerosol cans and steel food cans. The packaging than can be recycled by less than 20% of the population include HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE tubes; PP and PS cutlery; PS foam cups, trays/containers and clamshells; EPS packaging shapes; paper cups and take-out clamshells, containers and trays; and paper ice cream tubs.

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