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U.S. consumers who participate in recycling by age 2017

Participation in recycling varies across age groups, where it seems that younger generations state that they often try to do it as much as possible, but is in fact the older generations that state that they always recycle. Knowledge about the products that can actually be recycled also seems to vary across generations, with the Millennials being most hopeful in terms of assuming which types of products can actually be recycled. Single-stream recycling (one bin) is one of the most common systems in the world and is convenient and cost effective; however, this has led to much higher contamination rates. Contamination in recycling can come from food residue, stray plastic from straws, plastic bags, glass shards, and non-recyclable items.

Consumers and sustainability

More consumers are becoming aware of sustainability and this knowledge can often influence their purchase decisions. Corporations must better understand what is important to consumers and the sustainable traits they want to see in their products. Again, there appears to be generational differences in terms of willingness to pay for sustainable products, with younger generations being more willing to pay extra for environmentally and socially sustainable products.

Share of consumers who participate in recycling in the United States 2017, by age group*

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Release date

April 2017


United States

Survey time period

March 20 to 29, 2017

Number of respondents

980 respondents

Age group

18 years and older

Method of interview

Online survey

Supplementary notes

* The original question was phrased as follows: "Do you recycle in everyday life?"

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