In their study, “Recycling Gone Bad: When the Option to Recycle Increases Resource Consumption,” researchers Jesse R. Catlin and Yitong Wang conducted two simple experiments to prove their hypothesis – that the ability to recycle may lead to increased resource usage compared to when a recycling option is not available.
In the first experiment, participants were separated into two groups. Both groups were told to test a new brand of scissors using blank pieces of paper. One group had a recycling bin and trash bin in their room and the other group had only a trash bin. Participants were then instructed to cut a series of shapes out from the paper and then to take five minutes to evaluate the scissors in any way they deemed fit.
The group that had a recycling bin at in their room used more paper to test the scissors than the group without the bin.
The second experiment took place in a men’s bathroom. Researchers measured paper towel usage in a restroom with a recycling bin present and one without. Consistent with their hypothesis, more paper towels were used when there was a recycling bin available.
The study concludes that if the resource is free, a subject will use more of it if they know recycling is an option.
“Although we demonstrate the hypothesized effect of recycling availability on consumption, our results do not provide any direct process insight as to why this may occur,” Catlin and Wang write in the study. “A number of plausible mechanisms can be advanced for consideration in future research. For example, the option to recycle may function as a means of reducing the guilt associated with consuming and disposing of a product, which therefore increases consumption through mitigation of guilt associated with (over) consumption.”
What do you think about the findings? Are you guilty of using more when the option to recycle is available?
Source: Earth 911