The Recycling Partnership launched The Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact (“The Center”) with the goal of driving measurable improvement in residential recycling behavior and mobilizing household participation in the circular economy. The initiative addresses the reality that 15 million tons of household recyclables are lost to landfills because Americans are confused and lack confidence when it comes to recycling. “Solving this challenge requires an evidence-based approach,” explains Louise Bruce, Managing Director for the Center. “By rigorously evaluating and disseminating our findings, we are making the Center the go-to hub for innovative, people-focused solutions that substantially improve recycling at every step of the consumer journey. With this, we hope to empower recycling leaders to optimize their programs, and advance circularity of the economy.”
The Walmart Foundation and Milliken & Company Charitable Foundation are providing founding support for the Center. The Recycling Partnership will leverage its network of community partnerships, comprehensive national database, deep expertise in recycling education, and established track record of improving underperforming recycling programs to propel positive change in recycling behavior. “This change will be measured through both an increased capture of recyclable material and growth in household recycling participation,” adds Bruce. “Through our inaugural Recycling Confidence Index, The Center is using behavioral science to gauge consumer confidence in recycling programs and identify the drivers of these beliefs. For example, half of those surveyed believe that the items they recycle are made into new things, suggesting that there is room to boost recycling confidence, but only 7% said they believed recycled items rarely or never become something new. Significantly, the survey found that the highest levels of confidence exist among those who receive the full spectrum of recycling communications and support, including convenient bins, recycling knowledge and information, and motivational messages.”
The Center will initially focus on three areas: Deepening understanding of consumer barriers and sentiments toward recycling; scientifically testing different types of solutions to determine the most effective and scalable tactics that improve recycling behavior with different populations in the U.S.; and creating a playbook and accompanying online tool to make best practices and key insights available to national, state, and local recycling leaders. To support its initial phase, The Center is working with six Launch Advisors — “experts and practitioners in the fields of environmental research, behavioral science, community recycling program management and sustainability marketing to ensure that its research practices meet the highest scientific standards, while rooted in the everyday challenges of local communities,” states the Partnership.