Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Sustainability Dashboard release 10.1

October 1, 2013

Changing the Mind-Set Behind Recycling
Why People Do Not Recycle

BLOOMINGTON, IN — The recycling rate in the U.S. has risen less than six percent in the past decade and researchers have been trying to figure out why. A possible explanation was recently published in the Journal of Electronic Commerce Research.  
Instead of the typical excuses, such as recycling bins are not handy or recycling options are too confusing, this study looked at the actual thought process that leads consumers to recycle or not recycle an item.
The researchers discovered that there is a psychological characteristic to recycling.  
According to the authors of the study, Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta School of Business and Remi Trudel of Boston University, if an item looks damaged, incomplete, small, ripped, shredded, or deformed (a dented can, for example), it invariably gets tossed in the trash.
However, if the item is in whole form-a can that is not dented-it is usually sent to the recycling bin.
In some cases, even if only the paper label on a can has been removed, consumers have a greater tendency to toss it in the trash.
"This is a 'mind-set' issue and I do not believe [we must ask] manufacturers to redesign or repackage their items just so they do not lose their form," says Stephen Ashkin, CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools. "However, it would not hurt to add a sign to recycling bins indicating 'many items, no matter what their condition, can be recycled.'"
Ashkin believes that as  a "culture of sustainability" evolves throughout the country and in more organizations, this mind-set condition will begin to dissipate.
"There are lots of things we used to toss in the trash that we now recycle without thinking about it, everything from used motor oil to newspapers," adds Ashkin. "In time, no matter what form a can or piece of paper takes, these items are likely be recycled without any hesitation as well."

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About Stephen Ashkin and The Ashkin Group
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also
coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.     
Ashkin has worked in the cleaning industry since 1981 and has held senior management positions in leading consumer and commercial product companies. He began his work on Green Cleaning in 1990 and today is thought of as the "father of Green cleaning". For more information, visit