EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING 1 Effects of Geographic Location and Recycling Participation. EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING Abstract Research was conducted to determine if recycling participation is affected based on where an individual lives and/or where they grew up. Many psychological and sociological studies have looked into the human behavior of recycling; what drives an individual to recycle and what are the key components to a successful recycling program.
Results have shown that people with access to a structured recycling program have much higher levels of recycling than do people lacking such access. Furthermore, individual attitudes toward the environment affect recycling behavior only in the community with easy access to a structured recycling program. 2 Individual concern about the environment enhances the effect of the recycling program, but does not overcome the barriers presented by lack of access (Derksen and Gartrell 1993).
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Using past sociologic studies and retrospective data derived from recycling participation studies and polling figures of cities across the world; the results show that recycling participation is dependent on geographic location. Though, there are many factors within the geographic location that enable the success of a recycling program or inhibit a recycling program such as land fill ability, education in public schools, personal environmental feelings of the citizens and legislation by the geographic location government.
EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING Effects of geographic location and recycling participation Introduction Recycling has become a frequently discussed topic as states, cities and towns are faced with rising landfill costs. There is now more public awareness of environmental issues through Earth Day and other environmental organizations. Also, there is increased importing of ‘green’ 3 traditions like recycling and environmental concern through the influx of citizens from states that have established positive working recycling programs, to states that are just experimenting with recycling, or have no programs at all.
Though, some environmentalists wonder why recycling has not been so successful in recent years or even has been dropped as public utility option for citizens of some areas. All the while, statistical data shows the average amount of refuse an individual produces per day to be on the rise while the percentage of recycling has remained nearly the same or decreased (Figures 1 and 2). From around 1990 to 2008, the average amount of waste generated by each person in America per day was four and a half pounds and in some states like Texas, up to seven and a half pounds per day (Figure 3) (U.
S. Environmental Protection Agency 2009). An individuals participation in recycling has been shown to be affected by various factors including environmental feelings and the placement of a program that enables the individual to be part of a solution to the problem, education, and state legislation. In general, geographic location should also be influential to recycling participation if the geographic location is out of land fill space, has environmentally concerned citizens and has a rooted recycling program available to all its citizens.
Schwartz (1970) notes that in order for a social norm to predict behavior, the individual must believe that noncompliance will produce negative consequences EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING for others, and in addition must assume personal responsibility for those negative consequences. Psychologist J. M. Weyant (1986) points out that the negative consequences of environmentally destructive behaviors are not usually apparent. For example, most town residents do not live by 4 the landfill which ultimately houses their tossed garbage. Furthermore, ersonal responsibility is reduced because individuals feel that “nobody else is performing the behavior either” and that they have no choice but to perform the environmentally irresponsible act. Weyant (1986) shows that in order to have a successful program for recycling, the individual must feel like they are contributing to a greater cause, and that they are following the norm and joining in with the rest of society, not just out of wanting to change the world. Education is key to society in terms of a nation passing its economic values and traditions onto the next generations.
So if children are educated early on in life about the benefits of recycling and the resultant environmental gains, then the practice of recycling becomes a norm. Norms form the good vs. bad notion in ones mind, placing guilt and the negative feeling of not doing what everyone else is doing. A study conducted in the City of Denton, Texas, showed that a recycling education program instilled into the normal daily lives of elementary school children would produce a higher participation rate in the local curbside recycling program.
One of the study’s objectives was to monitor curbside recycling participation within the Robert E. Lee Elementary attendance zone, before and after the implementation of the school recycling and education program in order to look for any differences in participation over time. The results: There was an overall increase in the curbside recycling participation rate within the Lee Elementary attendance zone over the course of the study (Cunningham-Scott 2005).
The participation of recycling in geographic areas is also dependent on if there is state or EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING government legislation that encourages recycling or instead sponsors other forms of waste disposal such as Waste to Energy (WTE) and land filling refuse, which are considered environmentally negative. Some states such as California and New York have no available land fill area left and are essentially forced to write legislation mandating recycling and less household produced trash.
These states have had established recycling programs, elementary school education and legislation since the mid 1980’s due to the change in landscape and attitudes towards the environment changing with nuclear disasters in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to 5 public outcry of toxic waste in the 1980’s. Still, there are other states in the nation that to this day have land fill space available for the next twenty years, like the State of Texas. Where landfill space is readily available, the cost of garbage disposal might be less than that of recycling, reducing much of the incentive in establishing or expanding recycling programs.
Recycling programs are mainly voluntary, public education especially elementary school education of recycling is just now being instilled as the count down begins to having to figure out what to do with trash once the space runs out. Legislation is now being made in certain cities like the City of Austin which is mandating recycling for all of the city to reach Zero Waste by 2040 (City of Austin, Texas website 2010). As with the state’s other “environmental” policies, these often reflect the dominance of economic interests in the policy making process (Lowi, 1979).
The resulting policies are labeled as responses to environmental problem complainants (Spector & Kitsuse, 1977). Hypothesis The participation of recycling based on geographic location of an individual will show that a persons location in the country affects whether or not they participate in a recycling program due to such factors like landfill space available, education of recycling, state legislation EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING 6 and personal environmental conscious.
By a state not having any landfill capacity, like California since the mid 1980’s, they are almost forced to bestow recycling and waste reduction to the general public. Using elementary schools and educational sources, the state can help to forward a progressive movement towards the accepted practice of recycling. If a person lives in one of the states that has had to deal with waste reduction and recycling, the mindset of these individual’s and their offspring will seem to carry a ‘green’ attitude, in means that they are more apt to environmental onsciousness, and responsibility, and therefore would help to increase recycling participation where they live. The positive attitude towards recycling would then be carried to another state that may not be facing a landfill capacity crisis for another 20 years such as the case is in the State of Texas. As the individuals move to these states that have not instilled recycling programs, and widely do not have accepted environmental accountability, the ‘green’ minded individual helps to spur community projects such as small town recycling.
As well as helping to establish elementary school recycling programs, and in turn knowingly pass the environmental torch to the others in their community. Method In order to find the correlation between geographic location and recycling participation I gathered data from the WasteNews Municipal Recycling Survey 2009. The 30 cities chosen for this survey show a basic analysis of the recycling participation, the items collected, how and who hauls the recyclables and what is the participation percentage per population.
Other information was used in this paper such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and other web sources that provided statistical information such as charts and education per state. By using various resources, data was gathered to show personal feelings and sociological studies EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING concerning recycling. Also, data was gathered in regards to landfill capacity per state, and how states are dealing with waste.
Data The main source of the recycling data that was used in this paper is a recycling survey conducted by WasteNews, a weekly electronic magazine reporting on the waste management, recycling, and landfill industries (Municipal Recycling, 2009; WasteNews 2009). This survey provides self-reported recycling rates (dependent variable) and some additional information 7 about recycling programs in the 30 largest cities of the U. S. for the year 2009. The recycling rate for a city is measured by the percentage of materials recycled out of the total municipal solid waste generated.
Sociological studies on recycling participation, informational charts showing waste generation and recycling participation, and reports and data analysis of recycling per cities and states all helped to provide statistical data and reporting ability about recycling and the current and projected trends. Results Looking at the survey results, the cities with the greatest amount of public recycling participation are on the West coast of the United States, with cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and San Diego all having the highest recycling rate percentage per population.
Being that these states are highly populated and have been out of landfill capacity for a good while now, these results are to be expected. Also, these states that have high recycling participation have elementary education programs in place that help to instill the basic recycling knowledge in the upcoming generations of children. The West coast is known for its strong stance on environmental issues and policy making with legislation and mandates.
EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING There were other mid country states that had good recycling rates such as Nashville, Tennessee, and East coast cities such as Baltimore, Maryland. This survey shows us that recycling does occur more often and have a higher participation rate in the states that have run 8 out of landfill space. Low recycling participation was shown in such cities as Las Vegas, Nevada; El Paso, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Oklahoma. These states have considerable landfill capacity still and therefore have less participation and need for waste reduction and recycling.
Also, as in the State of Texas, recycling education is in its infancy compared to other states that have mandated or voluntary programs already in place (Calrecycle, 2011). The results do show that if a person is raised, or currently lives in a state such as California, their participation in a recycling program will be more likely than if that individual lives in a state such as Las Vegas, Nevada, or El Paso, Texas. The result helps to prove the hypothesis that geographic location does have an impact on recycling participation.
Discussion There is a correlation between the geographic location of an individual and the recycling participation. As shown, the states that have had to implement recycling mandates and allow and use legislation, use educational resources for continued generational recycling norm values, and provide recycling to the citizens, will have a higher recycling participation percentage per the population versus states that have no programs and still landfill their solid waste.
As citizens move from states that have high participation rates and have used educational institutions to contribute the recycling norm, to states that have no programs, we expect to see that recycling and a positive environmental attitude will distribute to the other citizens in the community and recycling will become a social standard. The emergence of new cultural beliefs EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING may result from some sort of institution building process (Scott, 2001).
Legislation is being passed in certain states now mandating that certain materials, like E- 9 Waste (Electronic Waste) are recycled and not deposited into landfills (Figure 1). With new laws and mandates, recycling is now catching on and showing improved participation and collections (Figure 3). Overall, the geographic location of an individual does have an impact on the participation of recycling. Certain factors help to keep participation levels high such as legislation and education.
There are still states that have minimal recycling programs. It is assumed that there are other factors that could have an affect of the participation of recycling; factors such as cities not wanting to implement a program due to associated costs, lack of recycling capability due to no transfer or recycling facility and even corporate involvement where a company may profit from the disposal of refuse into a landfill due to ownership of the land and of the cities refuse collection program.
But in general, if an individual lives in a geographic location that has recycling programs from lack of landfill space, elementary school recycling education and state legislation and/or mandates, the individual will have a greater participation in recycling. EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING 10 References Derksen, Linda and John Gartrell. 1993. “The Social Context of Recycling. ” American Sociological Review, Volume 58, Issue 3 (Jun. , 1993), 434-442. Gary Liss & Associates. “Austin, Texas Zero Waste Strategic Plan. ” Austin City Connection. 2 Feb. 2009. http://www. ci. austin. tx. us/sws/downloads/zerowaste_plan. df Lowi, Theodore. 1979. The End of Liberalism. 2nd edition. New York: W. W. Norton Municipal Recycling Survey. (2009). WasteNews (2009). Retrieved on 12/07/2011 from http://www. wasterecyclingnews. com/rankings/mrs2009. html Recycling Charts. (2008). Retrieved on 12/06/2011 from http://www. zerowasteamerica. org/Statistics. htm Recycling and Schools. School Waste Diversion Programs in Other States (2/28/2011). Retrieved on 12/07/2011 from http://www. calrecycle. ca. gov/ReduceWaste/Schools/StatesDoing. htm#Cities Schwartz, S. H. (1970). Moral decision-making and behavior. In J. Macaulay & L. Berkowitz (Eds. , Altruism and helping behavior. New York: Academic Press. Scott, W. R. (2001) Institutions and Organizations (2nd Edition) Newbury Park, CA, Sage. Spector, Malcom and J. I. Kitsuse. 1977. Constructing Social Problems. Menlo Park, CA: Cummings Publishing Company. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2009, November). Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States Detailed Tables and Figures for 2008. Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. Retrieved December, 2011 from http://www. epa. gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008data. pdf WasteNews (2008). Crain Communications Inc.
Retrieved on 12/4/2011 from http://www. wastenews. com Weyant, J. M. (1986). Applied social psychology. New York: Oxford. Witmer, J. F. & Geller, E. S. (1976). Facilitating paper recycling: Effects of prompts, raffles, and contests. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 9, 315-322. EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING 11 Figure 1. Recycling legislation for E-Waste (Electronic Waste) such as computers, keyboards, and circuit boards. EFFECTS OF GEOGRAPHICS AND RECYCLING 12 Figure 2. Waste Generation Rates. Figure 3. National Recycling Rates showing the percent recycling staying nearly the same since 1990.