SURVEY RESULTS: Recycling’s Generation Gap

Reprinted from Choices. A Boise resource designed to help organizations stay in the loop on key topics related to social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Young American adults may have come of age when issues such as climate change and sustainability are part of the national dialogue, but they trail their elders when it comes to recycling paper at home, according to a nationwide survey by Boise.

Only 39 percent of American adults between the ages of 18 and 34 report that they recycle paper at home all or most of the time, while 41 percent said they rarely or never recycle paper at home, according to Boise’s survey.

In contrast, Boise found that 54 percent or a majority of Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 reported recycling paper at home all or most of the time. Moreover, recycling rates remain high among all older age groups, with the oldest – those 65 and older – reporting the highest tendency to recycle.

Boise’s survey also found that recycling rates at work are roughly the same as at home with 42 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 reported recycling paper at work all or most of the time. As at home, recycling frequency increased among older workers, with 52 percent of those aged 35 to 54 reporting that they recycled paper at work all or most of the time.

The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted for Boise by Opinion Research Corp., also found that:
- The highest home recycling rates are among Americans 65 and older: 62 percent say they recycle paper all or most of the time.
- Recycling at home tends to be lowest in the South, with 25 percent of adults in that region reporting that they recycle all of the time, and highest in the Northeast and West, where about 4 in 10 residents report recycling all of the time.
- Recycling at home tends to be higher among those with higher household incomes. Among households with incomes of $75,000 or more, almost 7 in 10 report recycling all or most of the time.

I think the reason for the gap in paper recycling based on age, is that young people just don’t generate as much paper. What do you think?


Dodge This! said...

I agree that younger people probably just don't generate as much paper. Recently, a twenty-something store clerk told me that she didn't even own a checkbook because "everyone accepts debit cards."
Did the survey ask about recycling other materials such as plastic bottles or metal cans?

RE3.org said...

Checkbooks will soon be in the history museum!

I think the survey was funded by a paper company so they only asked about paper.