National Waste & Recycling Association Survey Finds Most Americans are Proud to Recycle — When They Can

Results show Americans recycle at work, but more public options needed to make habit a “no-brainer”
Nov 14, 2013 3:10 PM ET
Harris Interactive Recycling Survey - Summary Infographic

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2013 /3BL Media/ — New survey data suggests that Americans are filled with pride as they fill their recycling bins, but are often left wanting when searching for recycling options while on the go.

More than four in five Americans (82 percent) say they feel a sense of pride when they recycle, according to a new survey conducted online in October by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NW&RA), the trade group representing those who protect the environment and public health by managing America’s waste and recycling. The survey results coincide with America Recycles Day (Nov. 15).

“Recycling participation rates have increased dramatically during the last few decades in the U.S., and that is an achievement that all Americans should celebrate,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of NW&RA. “There is positive, pent-up desire to recycle even more in America. But we need more recycling options on our main streets and in our shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, airports, gas stations and other public spaces.”

Most Americans do not indicate success at recycling while out about town, and more than three in five (62 percent) report feeling guilty every time they throw something away instead of recycling it, underscoring a pressing need for expanded options in public and leisure spaces.

Major findings of the survey include:

1.  An overwhelming majority of Americans—82 percent—feel a sense of pride when they recycle, and 62 percent feel a sense of guilt when they toss a recyclable item in the trash.

2.  Americans are split on what they will do with a recyclable item if a recycling bin is not nearby. Nearly three-fifths (58 percent) say they will keep the item until they can recycle it, but 54 percent also admit they will sometimes trash a recyclable item if they cannot find a bin nearby.

3.  Most Americans will make an extra effort to recycle items outside their homes (74 percent), and those employed say they often have success recycling at work (58 percent).

4.  However, significantly fewer Americans say they are often successful recycling in other public settings, including when traveling for vacation or business (22 percent), while out shopping or walking along city streets (22 percent each) or when dining out (16 percent).

“Wherever there is a public trash can, there also should be a recycling bin within sight,” said Anne Germain, EIA’s waste and recycling technology director. “People think about recycling and inherently want to, but they need readily available recycling options for the habit to be a no-brainer.”

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Waste & Recycling Association from October 29-31, 2013 among 2,022 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact NW&RA Communications Director Thom Metzger.

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About the National Waste & Recycling Association
The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector waste and recycling services industry. Association members conduct business in all 50 states and include companies that collect and manage garbage, recycling and medical waste, equipment manufacturers and distributors and a variety of other service providers. For more information about how innovation in the environmental services industry is helping to solve today’s environmental challenges, visit

About America Recycles Day
America Recycles Day is a nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Every year on or around Nov. 15 (America Recycles Day) event organizers educate neighbors, friends and colleagues through thousands of events. Learn more at