Do recycle, youth!

Recycling? Who cares when you're only 20...

Posted on 23 January 2015.

Sorting our recycling from waste is more important than ever, but several studies come to the same conclusion - young people are halfhearted about it!

Perhaps we should stop trusting stereotypes? Because it is clear that young people - who are our future - are not very enthusiastic about the issue. But who are these young people? How old are they? Where do they come from? What do they think?

The age of recycling

According to a YouGov poll commissioned by Veolia UK, the people least interested in the issues of sorting, recycling, and more generally the environment, are aged between 18 and 24.

Another startling figure: apparently only 29% of these young people believe it is everyone’s duty (as against 42% of over 55s). The remaining 71% think it is up to the government to deal with it - both regionally and nationally.
Psychologically speaking, although 40% of seniors believe it will be possible to achieve the EU target of recycling over half of all household waste by 2020, only 26% of young people are optimistic. The others think it is simply impossible.

In France, still with the Facebook generation, only 36% of high school students and 37% of university students systematically sort their waste -the national average is 44% for all age brackets. *


"Most people think young people are more aware of social and environmental issues," says Estelle Brachlianoff, Chief Executive Officer of Veolia UK and Ireland. This belief is well founded - after all for the last decade sorting has been standard in homes. Young people have grown up with it. So where does this detachment come from? "I leave it to my parents. I'm always afraid of using the wrong bin and, frankly, I don’t want to go and look on the internet when I’m not sure," explained a teenager in the French regional daily Le Parisien.

Another  student said he doesn’t have enough room where he lives for two separate bins. The excuse about space comes up most often. Lastly, and apparently a significant issue, is the size, cleanliness and proximity of the containers made available to households - which may or may not encourage their use. In the end, only families with children living in a home of over 60 square meters systematically recycle.

Is there a cure?

Awareness! There is nothing like information for changing behavior. Veolia UK regularly organises visits for young people to its recycling centers, and promotes recycling by making things simple, in particular by means of good urban amenities, and information that is clear and accessible to everyone.
Veolia UK initiatives have received an award under the sustainable development category, and it also has four stars on the 2014 Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility index. This recognition should first serve to remind us that young people themselves are most affected by the environment because they will inherit it. So to young people everywhere we say, “Get sorting!”

* 2014 Ipsos internet survey of 5500 French people for Eco-emballages.

Recycling is about the future - symbolized by young people.

Find out more:

- Complete article ( in Le Parisien on young people and the environment