Testifying before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Agencies today, Brenda Pulley, SVP of Recycling for Keep America Beautiful talked about the importance of engaging individuals to recycle. The focus of the hearing, chaired by Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware, was to identify ways to increase the recycling of electronics. Many witnesses talked about the importance of convenience for the consumer to easily recycle electronics. Walter Alcorn, representing the Consumer Electronics Association, noted that it is estimated each home has 28 different electronics devices.
Pulley noted that the three key factors that guide KAB’s work to increase recycling are: convenience, communication and cause (in other words making recycling matter). Pulley noted that the consumer research findings for the national I Want To Be Recycled ad campaign that KAB has developed in partnership with the Advertising Council, was all about finding that emotional connection. And, what we learned was that when people understood that they could give their garbage another life – they wanted to take the extra step to recycle.
Finally, Pulley discussed two unique challenges for electronics recycling – the time of purchase to the end of life – can be several years. So consumers need additional prompting and ease to remind them to recycle their obsolete electronics, which is why electronics collection events like those held by Keep Carroll Beautiful in Georgia are so important. And because electronics have perceived value, people tend to store their old equipment in basements and garages rather than readily recycle them. So in developing strategies for recycling, this too is a barrier that must be overcome.
When asked what the Senate could do, Pulley noted that leading by example – making recycling a social norm by talking about electronics recycling, being seen recycling and inviting their colleagues and constituents to do the same – were leadership roles for senators.