A recent study by BMi Research Consumer Division to test if consumer attitudes towards recycling had changed much showed that consumers at the higher end of the market still recycle out of obligation and those at the bottom end still do it for the financial rewards. It remains obvious that more recycling initiatives and consumer education is needed to make it second nature.
Leanne Freeman: "Negative attitudes can be converted to positive contributions with more education and accessibility to collection points for waste."
Recycling where waste is reprocessed, reused or recovered to protect resources and reduce landfills, needs government involvement, however all consumers should try and participate in the reduction of waste by recycling. This remains a challenge as there are no formalised systems in place in South Africa to force consumers to recycle or separate waste.
This explorative study, that used qualitative and quantitative methods, was done on a small sample to check if consumer attitudes, behaviour and concerns about recycling have changed, says Leanne Freeman of BMi Research Consumer Division.
It also explored the drivers and barriers towards recycling, tested the understanding of consumers about waste management and household recycling behaviours, categorised consumer perceptions about waste and recycling and explored ideologies about recycling.
What hampers recycling
Key findings were that lack of knowledge and awareness of recycling points as well as insufficient collection points, insufficient awareness of responsibility for recycling and a high demand for consumers and organisations to be educated about recycling hamper recycling.
"Consumers have a basic knowledge of recycling and still care about it despite the difficult economic times that we live in. However, they believe more initiatives will make it second nature for communities. Consumers are also trying to save money in a difficult economy by recycling," Freeman said.
While respondents indicated that individuals and their communities are responsible for recycling, they hope that recycling initiatives at schools will filter through to communities and that organisations will accept more responsibility for recycling because they are producing more waste.
The large gap between attitudes towards recycling was highlighted by the fact that more recycling points are available in suburban areas while townships had hardly any.
Convenience is an important factor in recycling behaviour and attitudes and if consumers have to walk far through dangerous areas to recycle, they will choose not to.
"Although the research showed both positive and negative attitudes to recycling in South Africa, it confirmed that the negative attitudes can be converted to positive contributions with more education and accessibility to collection points for waste," Freeman says.