Is falling recycling rate due to 'green fatigue'?
It's been suggested that a recent fall in recycling rates is due to green fatigue, caused by the confusing number of recycling bins presented to householders for different materials.
So is this really a cause for concern, if the drop in recycling rates is down to there being less waste generated in the first place? Well, yes, if this means the 2020 target of 50% household recycling is not met. In that case, the UK government will be fined, and this may affect householders indirectly through higher taxes or lower provision of public services. However, this concern may be misplaced and perhaps is more to do with the way the target is defined, rather than recycling levels.
The relationship between recycling and the waste we generate implies that a drop in the amount of waste produced or an increase in less-recyclable material will lead to a fall in recycling volumes and possibly a drop in the recycling rate. The former should be recognised as a welcome development, whereas the latter reflects changing patterns of consumption. This should prompt new innovation in the waste sector to deal with these types of waste. For example, by developing improved recycling methods or technology to deal with different types or combinations of ,ateroals.
Research indicates that there are several factors that underpin the rate of recycling, from the way the service is provided, to whether recycling is considered a social norm among families, communities or groups banded by age, ethnicity or location. Perhaps the role for government in tackling any dip in the recycling rate is to highlight the prevalence of recycling among certain groups as a way to demonstrate the existence of that recycling norm – and by doing so, encourage it in others.