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Making 'Cents' of Recycling Behavior

The Return on Investment of Spreading the Recycling Habit

Recycling behavior has an outsized influence on the economics of recycling.


Around 80% of post-consumer waste could be recycled or composted, but when communities don’t separate their waste at the source, most of these materials remain out of reach for the recycling industry. With the global recycling rate languishing at 16%, there is a pervasive supply shortage of recyclables, putting corporate recycling commitments increasingly at risk even as the urgency of combating waste pollution grows. Activating more communities to do their part is more important than ever. 

Together with our partner, Delterra, an environmental nonprofit focused on recycling in emerging economies, we released a report titled Making ‘Cents’ of Recycling Behavior: The Return on Investment of Spreading the Recycling Habit.

The report affirms how recycling behavior isn’t a nice-to-have; instead, it’s key to making the economics of recycling work.

Analysis of Delterra’s projects in three distinctly different recycling environments in emerging markets - an informal settlement in Buenos Aires, a set of urban districts in Bali, and a mid-sized Argentinian city - shows that investing in behavior change pays for itself in recycling outcomes. 

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Promoting recycling behavior can pay back quickly, especially when prices reflect environmental impacts.


Behavior change can cost less than technology-based alternatives for boosting recycling outcomes.


Deeper investment in community engagement is likely needed to reach high recycling rates.

Key Insights

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