1 in 3 Brits admit they don’t recycle household goods

March 13, 2010, 2:09 AM GMT+0

Over a third of Brits (36%) did not recycle the last furniture or electrical household item that they got rid of, according to a survey undertaken on behalf of the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The survey looked at the recycling habits of 2,024 British adults and asked what method they last used for disposing unwanted furniture or electrical items, and their reasons for recycling using this method.
Recycling was defined as taking an item to a recycling centre, giving or selling it on, or donating it to charity. Based on this, nearly half of respondents admitted that they had not recycled recently.

Generational divide

The survey did find a great disparity in the recycling habits between different age groups. Those aged 18-24 are the least likely of all age groups to dispose of their unwanted items in an environmentally responsible way. Less than half (46%) of people of this age group recycled compared to 62% of those aged 35-44 and 58% of those aged 55+.

It should be noted, however, that young people are less likely to have recycled as a whole, perhaps because their goods may not be as old, or simply because they are less likely to be homeowners with large household goods to recycle. Indeed, the survey found that 22% of those aged 18-24 either do not own, or have never replaced, an item of furniture or electrical good in their home.

Older people are more likely to donate their items to charity, with one fifth of those aged over 45 (22%) using this method to dispose of unwanted furniture, compared with only 8% of people aged 18-24. Over a quarter of this older group take their old items to a recycling centre, but 18 to 24 year olds (13%) and 25 to 34 year olds (11%) are less likely to do this. This may in part be because of lack of access to a large car or van to dispose of furniture in this way.

Young people are, however, more likely to give away or sell on their unwanted possessions. Of the 18-34 year olds who did recycle, they were most likely to give it away or sell it on – with 52% using this method. Older people are less likely to do this, with only 17% of those aged 55+ using this method. This may be because of the rise in online auction sites such as eBay, which younger people may be more comfortable using than older generations.

Reasons to resist recycling

When asked their reasons for not recycling, 17% said it was ‘too much hassle’, 19% said they ‘didn’t realise they could’ and a further 16% said it was because they didn’t have any services nearby.

These results imply that more needs to be done to emphasise the importance of recycling. Improving awareness of the different recycling methods available may also help reduce the levels of waste currently piling up in the country’s desperately limited landfill sites.

For survey details and full results, please click here