New Study Shows Damaged Products Less Likely to Be Recycled

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Does a dent in a soda can or a crumpled piece of paper affect people’s recycling habits? As it turns out, yes.

A recent study titled "The Effect of Product Size and Form Distortion on Human Behavior," makes an effort to explore what keeps people from recycling more. The results are somewhat surprising, and indicate that recycling may be more psychologically motivated than we think.

The study found that people are less inclined to recycle damaged products like scraps of paper, shredded boxes, and dented containers. One test shows that only 20 percent of dented cans were recycled, while 80 percent of unblemished cans made it to the recycling bin.

Product packaging may also influence a decision to recycle. Difficult to open plastic packaging tends to get destroyed and thrown out, whereas easy to open cardboard boxes are usually recycled.

Jennifer Argo, co-author of the study, explains how people perceive waste and why re-branding recycling may help people to recycle more often.