How the pandemic has changed the way Americans think about the future of the environment

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, six in 10 Americans are worried about the future of the environment — but it's also helping them change their eco-friendly habits, according to new research. The survey of 2,250 Americans — split evenly between nine major cities — revealed 58% of respondents are reevaluating their eco-friendly habits as a result of the pandemic. While 65% confess to being "constantly" worried about the future of the environment, the same number said the pandemic has acted as a wake-up call for them to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Republic Services in advance of America Recycles Day, the survey delved into the ways COVID-19 changed respondents' habits. The top eco-friendly change respondents made during this time was becoming more aware of their impact on their environment (44%). That was followed by being more careful to purchase eco-friendly products (43%) and working to waste less (41%). Rounding out the top five eco-friendly changes were taking more time to sort their recyclables (30%) and composting more (26%). Results also revealed 62% of respondents said spending time at home in recent months due to quarantine has made them more aware of their eco-unfriendly habits, which has likely helped prompt these changes. Spending more time at home due to the pandemic has also made 77% of respondents more likely to recycle — of those, 57% said it would be a lasting change. And 75% said recycling is a simple action everyone can take to be more environmentally friendly. "These survey results reinforce that Americans can and want to be better recyclers," said Pete Keller, Republic Services vice president of sustainability and recycling. "In the face of a pandemic, Americans are rightfully thinking about the steps they can take to be less wasteful. Today more than ever, we have a critical need for recycled cardboard, paper, rigid plastic containers, aluminum and tin for manufacturing and the supply chain in the face of COVID-19." But even though respondents recognize the importance of recycling, they don't always do it. Results found those surveyed only recycle about 52% of the time — and the biggest barrier was revealed to be as simple as a lack of space in their home for an extra bin (30%). That was followed by a lack of understanding of what can and can't be recycled (26%) and a belief that their recycling isn't actually recycled (24%). "One way people can improve their recycling habits is by educating themselves," said Keller. "This is important at home, in schools, workplaces, etc. — and to help achieve this goal, we created Recycling Simplified, which provides an array of tips and resources for pre-kindergarten through 12-grade students. By reinforcing recycling best practices in our schools, we can reduce recycling contamination rates and ensure local recycling programs remain sustainable for future generations."