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Republic Services survey finds consumers lack an understanding of proper recycling practices

A collection truck collects curbside recycling
The survey analyzed the recycling knowledge and habits of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers. Source: Republic Services

According to a new survey from Republic Services, despite high confidence levels in their knowledge, most consumers lack an understanding of proper recycling practices, particularly for plastics. In fact, confusion about which plastics should be recycled is leading some to forgo it completely – at a time when demand for recycled plastics has never been stronger.

As brands set ambitious targets for recycled content in their packaging and states begin to adopt minimum recycled content standards the demand for high-quality recycled plastics will only grow – but the current supply of the right types of recycled plastics falls short. November 15 is America Recycles Day and to mark the day, Republic Services is sharing information to help address plastics recycling misconceptions and educate consumers on recycling best practices.

"America Recycles Day is an opportunity for everyone to brush up on their knowledge of proper recycling," says Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services. "Republic Services is committed to helping consumers understand which common plastic items can be recycled, helping to meet demand and advance the circular economy for the long term."

The survey analyzed the recycling knowledge and habits of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers. While nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they know what types of plastics can be recycled, 61 percent incorrectly believe flexible plastics, including grocery bags and bubble wrap, are recyclable in their curbside bins.

As for recycling habits, water bottles, milk jugs, and laundry detergent jugs are some of the most widely acceptable recyclables, yet consumers aren't always recycling them. When asked about which items they consistently recycle:

  • 62 percent of consumers recycle water bottles
  • 51 percent recycle milk jugs
  • 43 percent recycle laundry detergent jugs

Republic Services is committed to educating consumers on the proper ways to recycle so good intentions aren't wasted. When recycling plastics:

  • Focus on recycling hard plastics, such as bottles, jugs, and tubs, that are labelled #1, #2, or #5
  • Always ensure recyclables are empty, clean and dry
  • Always remember to check with your service provider on what they accept, as recycling materials vary by location
  • Do not bag recyclables

Company info

18500 N. Allied Way
Phoenix, AZ
US, 85054


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