Survey Reveals Americans' Green Guilt

The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. (RBRC), a non-profit organization focused on rechargeable battery and cell phone recycling, set out to find out what Americans are guilty of when it comes to the environment.

On April 19, RBRC announced the results of a new survey that identifies Americans' "green" attitudes and habits and shows that most consumers could stand to go a shade or two "greener."

The survey, which was conducted by GFK Custom Research on behalf of RBRC, reveals that 20 percent of Americans suffer from "green guilt," and many more admit to less-than-perfect recycling habits. In fact, about 52 percent of respondents recycle their glass and cardboard, while roughly 60 percent recycle their newspapers. In addition, approximately one-third of those surveyed recycle their used rechargeable batteries and old cell phones, while 14 percent of Americans admitted to not recycling anything at all.

Those who identified themselves as "recyclers" say that the main reason they recycle is to help preserve the environment. Many (43 percent) who do not recycle all recyclable items are unclear about their local recycling laws and recycling locations, while 34 percent of Americans feel that it takes too much effort to separate their trash. A large group (43 percent) doubts that their individual actions will have any impact on the future of the environment.

RBRC states that this, however, is simply not the case. For example, if all morning newspapers read in this country were recycled, 41,000 trees would be saved daily and 6 million tons of waste would never end up in landfills.

"We actually found the results of the survey encouraging since most Americans are at least recycling something and just need the proper resources and guidance to help them do more for the environment," said Ralph Millard, executive vice president, RBRC.

In addition to recycling habits, the survey also pinpointed other common "green" habits and attitudes, aiming to identify the one thing that could most easily be incorporated into consumers' lifestyles in order to protect the environment. Approximately one-quarter of respondents felt that they could easily turn off their air conditioning or heat when not at home, while 19 percent said that they could unplug appliances that are not in use. In addition, nearly 15 percent felt that the easiest habit to adopt would be recycling their used rechargeable batteries and old cell phones, whereas roughly 12 percent would rather bring a coffee mug to their local coffee shop, instead of using paper or Styrofoam cups. Respondents also indicated a willingness to take fewer napkins at fast food restaurants and delis (10 percent), or opt for online bill statements (8 percent).

For more information on recycling laws and local drop-off locations in your area, log on to the Call2Recycle Web site ( or call toll free at 877-2-RECYCLE for local retailers and community centers that collect used rechargeable batteries and cell phones.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.