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Community recycling survey uncovers cost and access as main barriers for non-recyclers

September 19, 2019

Results from a survey of 2,115 Kent County residents paint a picture of a community with a strong desire to recycle but has limited access.

This summer, the Kent County DPW partnered with West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) to conduct a Community Recycling Survey. The purpose of the survey was to better understand Kent County residents’ attitudes and behaviors about recycling. The survey was administered in person at several events, available on reimaginetrash.org and pushed through social media to collect feedback from a diverse group of recyclers and non-recyclers from across the county. A full report of the survey is available here ([ddownload id=”19710″]). Here are a few key findings.

KEY FINDINGS

For residents who recycle:

The main motivation for recycling is people believe it’s good for the planet and keeps plastic and trash out of our oceans, Great Lakes and the landfill.

A third of respondents said they take their recycling to a drop-off center instead of using a curbside recycling service. When asked about why they use a drop-off center, 41% said curbside recycling costs too much or should be free, and 29% said curbside recycling isn’t available where they live.

For residents who do not recycle:

The main barriers to recycling are cost and access. Forty-eight percent of respondents either said recycling costs too much or they believe recycling should be free. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said recycling was not readily available in their community or they live in a multi-unit building that doesn’t offer the service.

Roughly 1 in 5 respondents are basing their decision to not recycle on misinformation. Nearly 20% of respondents said they aren’t recycling because they hold a belief recycled materials just end up in the landfill anyway, it doesn’t make a difference for the environment or it’s just a money-maker for government.

For all respondents:

When asked about what could be done to better manage waste for residents in Kent County for the next decade, the highest priority was to encourage waste haulers to offer both trash and recycling services to all residents as one bundled rate in order to increase availability of recycling county-wide.

It’s estimated the Kent County Recycling and Education Center is only handling about 25% of available residential recycling material in the county. While education and awareness are important, this survey shows the main barriers preventing people from recycling relate to access and cost. Many people are aware of recycling and value the environment, however, some believe it’s simply too much work. If we want to capture the 75% of available material that currently gets discarded, we will need to address these issues as a community.

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