New Recycling Study Shows Lack Of Bins Is No. 1 Barrier To Recycling In The Home

Apr 17, 2014 11:15 AM ET

BOSTONApril 17, 2014 /3BL Media/ – Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers consistently recycle in the home, but despite a genuine concern for the environment, only about half do so in rooms beyond the kitchen. According to the 2014 Cone Communications Recycling in the Home Survey, in partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies as part of its Care To Recycle program, there are several key barriers to expanding recycling in the home, including the lack of room-specific recycling bins and clear product labeling.

Absence of Bins is the Biggest Barrier to Recycling

Although Americans indicate a strong willingness to recycle, good intentions aren’t enough. Consumers state that not having a recycling bin in each room is the number one roadblock to recycling more. In fact, nearly one-in-five (17%) would recycle more often if they had better or more convenient recycling bins throughout the house. But, the majority (56%) of recyclers keeps bins in the kitchen, as opposed to other rooms throughout the house, such as the garage/basement (43%), laundry room (21%) or bathroom (14%).

Bins aren’t the only roadblock to recycling. Consumers also fault not knowing what products or packaging are recyclable and the amount of space recycling requires as additional factors in favor of tossing recyclables in the trash.

Of the consumers who do recycle, the majority does so because of a genuine concern for the environment (42%). Just 10 percent of Americans recycle solely because it is mandatory in their communities. Other motivations to recycle include:

  • Guilt about the amount of trash or waste they create (17%)
  • Desire to be a good role model (14%)
  • The chance to earn money, rewards or incentives (14%)

“Knowledge and convenience go hand in hand when it comes to maximizing the chances a recyclable will make its way through the home and into the recycling bin,” says Paulette Frank, vice president – Sustainability, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies. “Labels build awareness of what is recyclable, and household bins, ideally within arm’s reach, help many of us take the next step of separating recyclables from the trash destined for a landfill.”

When In Doubt, Most Consumers Take Shortcuts

Even for the most fervent recycler, labels can improve a product’s chances of being recycled, especially as only one-fifth of recyclers will go the extra mile to research whether a product can be recycled when it is not clearly labeled. Most recyclers take shortcuts by:

  • Only recycling items they already know are recyclable (28%)
  • Recycling as many items as they can even if they don’t know they’re recyclable (26%)
  • Only recycling items that are clearly labeled (21%)
  • Only recycling when convenient (6%)

“There’s no question on-pack real estate is at a premium, but clearly, this is where consumers are looking for information,” says Liz Gorman, senior vice president – Sustainable Business Practices, Cone Communications. “Companies who want to make an impact need to prioritize sustainability messages on their products and make information available through other channels.”

Hispanics and Children are Strongest Recycling Champions

Hispanic consumers are more steadfast than the general public in their commitment to recycling. More than half (53%) reports always recycling in the home, compared to 46 percent of the average population. Hispanic recyclers also want to ensure products find their way to the proper receptacles – be it a trash can or recycling bin. When recycling, Hispanics are:

  • More likely to do additional research to find out if an item is recyclable when it is not clearly labeled (26% vs. 20% U.S. average)
  • Less likely to toss as many items as they can into the recycling bin even if they don’t know they’re recyclable (20% vs. 26% U.S. average)

Children also have a vital role to play in helping the household recycle. Parents report their children:

  • Are very motivated to recycle in the home (62%)
  • Are always looking for ways to protect the planet (60%)
  • Educate the rest of the family about the benefits of recycling (50%)

And, schools are a major stakeholder in the recycling effort; according to two-thirds (66%) of parents, that is where children learn about the positive impact of recycling.

“The research confirms what many of us know based on experience – that children can often teach us a thing or two about being good stewards of our planet,” says Frank. “As a company committed to increasing recycling rates, harnessing the passion of our youngest recyclers presents an exciting – and fun – opportunity!”

Companies and Communities Share Responsibility to Encourage Recycling

The chance to earn money or rewards is the number one way consumers say they could be further encouraged to recycle more often at home (41%), but they also look to companies or their own communities to provide additional encouragement through education and resources.

Consumers say they would be encouraged to increase their recycling if companies educated them by:

  • More clearly indicating which products can be recycled (28%)
  • Explaining how recycled materials are used (14%)
  • Helping consumers understand how recycling impacts the environment (12%)

They would also be more apt to recycle if communities provided more resources to do so, including:

  • Offering recycling programs or centers (20%)
  • Making it more cost or time efficient to recycle (20%)
  • Helping consumers understand what types of products can be recycled locally (19%)
  • Offering single stream recycling so they do not have to separate recyclables (15%)

“When it comes to improving consumer recycling rates, companies can’t go it alone,” says Gorman. “Consumers are calling for a collaborative approach, asking communities to provide solutions that make recycling less confusing and more convenient so consumers can do their part.”


About the Research

The 2014 Cone Communications Recycling in the Home Survey, in partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies as part of its Care To Recycle program, presents the findings of an online survey conducted by Toluna on March 6-10, 2014 among a sample of 1,265 American adults, comprising 561 men and 704 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for a sample of this size is ± 3% at a 95% level of confidence.

About Cone Communications

Cone Communications ( is a public relations and marketing agency known for igniting brands with high-impact strategies and programs based in deep insights, unique subject matter expertise and innovation. Focusing on key areas such as consumer product media relations, social media, cause branding and marketing, corporate social responsibility, nonprofit marketing, corporate communications and crisis prevention/management – the agency is positioned to help clients achieve both business and societal outcomes. Cone Communications is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.

About Diversified Agency Services

Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (, manages Omnicom’s holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.

About Care To Recycle

While most of us recycle, many of us forget to recycle in the bathroom. That’s why the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies created the Care To Recycle® program ( to raise awareness of the need to recycle products in all rooms of the house and to offer tools and resources to help.

About the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies

Caring for the world, one person at a time…inspires and unites the people of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies. We embrace research and science – bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies is part of the more than 250 operating companies of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), working with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.