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A plastic bottle becomes a jacket, an aluminum can a bicycle. When consumers are reminded of the products that their recyclables can be turned into they are more likely to recycle, according to researchers at Penn State and Boston College.
"Recycling rates in the United States are too low," said Karen Winterich, professor of marketing and a Frank and Mary Smeal Research Fellow, Smeal College of Business, Penn State. "For example, in 2015, only 25 percent of waste was recycled. Our research suggests that recycling rates can improve if consumers are exposed to signage and messaging that shows recyclables are transformed into new products. We hope to change the conversation from 'Where does this go?' as consumers question whether an item is recyclable to "What can this make?' with consumers automatically thinking about products made from the material they recycle."
Winterich - Definition - Recyclable - Object - Future
According to Winterich, the definition of a recyclable is an object with a future use, yet many of us still view recyclable material as trash.
"We may put it in the recycling bin, but in essence, we think of it as garbage," said Winterich. "We don't think about it as something of value that has a future use."
Winterich - Colleagues - Series - Studies - Product
Winterich and her colleagues conducted a series of studies in which they examined how product transformation salience—thinking about recyclables turning into new products—influences recycling. The results of these studies appear in print on July 1 in the Journal of Marketing.
In one study, the team gave participants half sheets of scrap paper on which to doodle so they could "clear their minds." Next, the researchers showed the participants a series of advertisements. Some of the advertisements merely encouraged recycling. Others featured products being recycled into the same types of products—for example, a plastic bottle being transformed into a new plastic bottle. Still others featured products being recycled...
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