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Curbside recycling is available to more than half of American adults, but the public could benefit from additional education on what can be recycled, according to a recent national survey.

The survey, commissioned ahead of Earth Day by the National Waste & Recycling Association and conducted online by the Harris Poll among more than 2,000 U.S. adults in April, found that two-thirds of Americans are clear on what belongs in recycling bins, indicating an opportunity to expand the other third’s knowledge of what can be recycled.

The survey found that more than half of Americans (55 percent) confirm their town or city offers “curbside collection” of recyclables, which they place into a bin or cart separate from their household trash bin. Additionally, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they’re clear on what materials go in recycling bins, and 64 percent know it is necessary to rinse used food containers before placing them into recycling receptacles.

Yet, there is some room for improvement on our recycling behaviors. For example, the survey found that one item causes particular confusion, as 39 percent of Americans incorrectly believe it is acceptable to recycle plastic bags by tossing them into household bins. Plastic bags can damage and even shut down recycling facilities and should instead be recycled at participating grocery stores.

The survey also uncovered that 1 in every 10 Americans admit to having put their trash into recycling bins or carts when their own trash container was full, and 1 in 5 admit they will place an item into a recycling container even if they are not completely sure it is recyclable.

Published in the June 2014 Edition of American Recycler News