Report Shows Younger Generations Continue to Recycle Despite Recent Headlines

Report Shows Younger Generations Continue to Recycle Despite Recent Headlines

Although most respondents are unsure recycled materials actually get recycled, younger generations have not lost faith.

In the wake of recent, unpromising recycling headlines, Americans—particularly Gen Z and Millennials—continue to recycle. Actually, some 85% of respondents say they recycle, even after the concerning recycling news.

A national poll conducted by Mason-Dixon on behalf of the Carton Council showed that of the 85% who recycle, the majority of them are both younger and unsure of what happens to their recycled materials. This could mean that younger generations are both the future and the biggest skeptics of recycling as it stands today.

The poll indicates that nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents are either unsure (21%) of what happens to their materials or flat out don’t believe (44%) that the materials are actually being recycled. Beyond just the question of skepticism is the analysis of age from the data. Most people who recycle are between the ages of 18-34 years old, with 92% of that range reporting they recycle. As the age increases, support of recycling slight decreases with 89% of 35- to 49-year-olds, 87% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 68% of those 65 and older reporting they recycle.

This is potentially a good thing: “This is great news as it shows that the vast majority of Millennials and Generation Z are supportive of recycling despite recent negative publicity,” said Carla Fantoni, VP of Communications, Carton Council. “While recycling is currently facing challenges that began with turmoil stemming from the China restrictions and bans, it is a cyclical industry and we are seeing investments in both materials recovery facilities and end markets, working to ensure recycling’s future.”

The Carton Council’s recent efforts have centered around making recycling easier and more efficient. Over the past 10 years the group has worked to increase carton recycling access to consumers and work with the recycling industry to help facilities and communities be efficient and sustainable. This includes support and guidance on food and beverage carton sorting, brokers to identify end markets, and educating residents that cartons can be recycled.

To the Carton Council, it’s all about improving the consumer’s attitude and behavior surrounding recycling. To Fantoni, it’s reassuring to see the younger generation’s commitment to the cause, even when consumers are unaware of what happens to the materials. “This reinforces that we, as an industry, need to work together to ensure recycling is actually occurring and show consumers what happens to the recyclables after they leave their curbs, removing their skepticism.”

To learn more about the Carton Council and its mission, visit To learn more about the Carton Council’s tips on sorting and recycling different kinds of cartons, visit