April 25, 2024

Despite their reputation as one of the most sustainable generations yet, Gen Z is actually the least likely generation to recycle, according to a new study commissioned by Boxed Water.

Only 5 percent of Americans recycle plastic regularly, but that number varies greatly across the generations.

Gen Z were by far the least likely to recycle, with millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers next, renewable water company Boxed Water said this month. The company looked at survey responses from more than 1,000 adults and noted a shift in generational apathy toward recycling.

These statistics are far below the number of U.S. households–62 percent–that are able to recycle through local programs.

While 82 percent of those polled were “somewhat” or “very” worried about the impact of single-use plastic, only 58 percent actively recycled.

Baby Boomers led the pack, recycling 67 percent of the time, while Gen Z participated at a rate of only 44 percent. Millennials and Gen X were right in the middle at 50 and 59 percent respectively.

“In our interpretation, millennials may not be apathetic as much as they are potentially more aware of the declining and abysmally low recycling rates in the U.S.,” Kavita Shah, the vice president of marketing at Boxed Water, said in a statement.

Gen Z Doubts Efforts Make a Difference

But what is fueling the apathy across the generational divide?

Licensed therapist Pamela Jackson said Gen Z might be more inclined to be apathetic because they distrust their efforts making any impact at all.

“This generation is inundated with information revealing what you see isn’t always what you get. They are the generation heavily aware that profit is a bottom line,” Jackson told Newsweek.

This was echoed by Noah Mallin, the chief strategy officer of Gen Z-focused IMGN Media.

“What we see is Gen Z generally are concerned about the environment but are skeptical that individual actions like recycling actually helps,” Mallin told Newsweek. “This is part of a larger trend of Zoomers not trusting institutions whether they be political, business or otherwise to be truthful.”

And because Gen Z knows their conscious efforts to preserve the planet jeopardize the ability of corporations to make money, they may not put in any effort at all.

“Gen Zers are debunkers,” Jackson said. “They are growing up in an age where unveiling the person behind the curtain is essential versus following the yellow brick road.”

They also might be resentful that businesses are putting the responsibility to save the planet on consumers’ shoulders instead of taking the blame themselves.

Politifact found 100 corporations are responsible for 71 percent of emissions related to fossil fuel and cement production, and four of the largest consumer goods companies produce 6 million of tons of plastic waste every year.

“A common Gen-Z belief is that corporations put the burden on climate action on individuals in order to not take meaningful action themselves, so there is a veil of skepticism that has to be pierced,” Mallin said.

Banning Plastic

As recycling levels meet record lows, the government is still working to reduce the amount of plastic waste at any given time.

In September, Massachusetts became the first state to ban purchase of single-use plastic bottles. However, many other local governments are instating similar rules.

In Irvine, California, city officials are considering a ban on single-use plastics, and San Francisco International Airport along with Los Angeles International Airport enacting similar rules. Sustainability proponents say this isn’t anywhere near where plastic levels need to be, however.

“Simply, we cannot keep up. Recycling plastic in the U.S. has become that Sisyphean task of pushing a rock uphill,” Boxed Water Chief Revenue Officer Robert Koenen said. “US perceptions are actually tracking with the reality of plastic and aluminum recycling.”

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This story was originally published December 5, 2023, 2:57 PM.

source: star-telegram

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