No Recycling Please, We’re Millennials

Research has shown that while young people are the most likely to pay for a sustainable product, those same young people are far less likely to recycle than people in other age groups.

A YouGov poll, commissioned by Veolia, the waste management firm, found that young people aged 18-24 are the ‘most uncaring generation when it came to recycling and wanting to make a positive difference.’

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The statistics

The survey found:

  • Only 57% of 18-24-year olds believed that it was ‘very important’ to recycle household waste, whereas 74% of people over 55 thought it was important.
  • Only 29% of 18-24-year olds think that they have the biggest responsibility to recycle, whereas 42% of people over 55 thought they had the most responsibility. The younger people thought that local authorities and the national government were ultimately responsible for recycling.
  • Only 26% of 18-24-year olds thought that the EU recycling target of 50% is too low, compared with over 40% of over 55’s.

What explains this trend?

Today’s society has a throwaway culture. We buy things and we throw them away. Previous generations grew up in a different time where there were not so many goods freely available and they were more likely to make do and mend.

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The power of corporations

Part of the reason that young people appear to be so apathetic about recycling is that they believe that big companies have more power to do something about environmental problems than they do. Research has shown that over 75% of millennials say they are concerned about the impact of climate change, but it appears that they believe it is such a big problem that their individual actions won’t make an impact.

What can be done to encourage young people recycle more?

Education about recycling and raising awareness of why it’s important is key. The main reasons people give for not recycling are that they find it inconvenient, that it’s too time-consuming, and they are confused about what can be recycled. Educating people about recycling can go a long way to changing behaviours and beliefs about recycling.

With ambitious recycling targets to meet and increasing concern about environmental issues like global warming, the need to educate future generations is more important than ever.

Education is one way, changing the way people think about recycling is another solution. This includes changing the way people view waste. Encouraging people to see packaging and other recyclable items as being valuable rather than just as trash would go a long way to boost recycling rates. 

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