From passionate tweets about ‘Planet Earth II’ to the rejection of fast fashion, millennials are widely perceived as a more woke generation when it comes to environmental issues. But new research suggests 25 to 34-year olds are actually far more reluctant to recycle than older generations.
A new survey by The British Science Association of 2,000 people from across Britain found many of us are knowingly recycling fewer items than we could be. Perhaps surprisingly, more than one in five 25 to 34-year olds said they find recycling too time consuming and are not in the habit of recycling (22%), while only 6% of people over the age of 55 said the same.
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At first glance, you could be forgiven for assuming millennials aren’t as green-minded as it may seem. However, Katherine Mathieson, chief exec of The British Science Association, said the findings could reflect the challenges younger people face when recycling, with so many in rented accommodation and shared housing, where time, space and resources may be restricted.
Among those who admitted they don’t recycle all they can, the top reason given was not being sure what can and can’t be recycled (30%). When unsure about whether an item can be recycled or not, only three out of 10 (33%) Brits take the time to look the item up before throwing it in the rubbish or recycling bin.
The survey also revealed the good recycling habits we do have at home often go out of the window when we’re at work. Nearly three out of 10 Brits aged 18 to 34 (27%) admitted taking less care with their recycling at work than at home.
Commenting on the figures, Mathieson told HuffPost UK: “I don’t think these figures reflect a lack of interest from millennials in recycling or that they care less about the environment than the older generations. Instead I think it gives an indication of the challenges faced by younger people, and why we need to do more to offer everyone the same opportunities.”
While inconsistent labelling on packaging and different recycling policies from local authorities make recycling a “challenge” for many, Mathieson said: “For the younger generation, many of whom will be in rental accommodation on short term leases, and often living in shared accommodation, knowing the rules of that particular council will not always be clear or a top priority.”
Mathieson said we need clearer guidance on recycling across all packaging and a move towards more consistent recycling policies between local authorities.
Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, agreed the research underline “the importance of making it much easier for people to recycle”.
“Millennials in particular care passionately about the environment and want strong leadership from government, yet right now all they are seeing is a bit of fiddling whilst the planet burns,” she told HuffPost UK.
“They want change now and for it to be big, bold and easy to take part in. One of the ways to really make a difference is start refusing packaging in the first place – if we all started leaving unnecessary plastic wrappers at the shop tills, I guarantee that would rapidly result in retailers and manufacturers rethinking their policies.”