We all know we should recycle, but even committed recyclers can be erratic, cleaning and sorting bottles one day, and tossing glass in the trash the next. Why? It turns out that an array of biases sway our decisions about what to place in the green bin and what to throw away.
Two such biases emerged in research my colleagues and I recently conducted on disposal habits. First, we found that people are more likely to recycle items that haven’t been distorted—like undented soda cans and paper that hasn’t been torn into pieces (we call this the “distortion bias”). Second, they are more likely to recycle items linked to an element of their identity—a Starbucks cup with their name on it, for example (the “identity bias”). A third factor affects not what we recycle, but how much we do: People who know they are going to recycle after completing a task that generates waste use far more resources than they otherwise would have. read more >>