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State of the nation - 2007

What the public think and feel is vital to achieving buy-in for schemes like alternate week collections and reward and penalty schemes based on reducing waste. So, anyone involved in the sector will be interested in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) 2007 Survey of Public Attitudes and Behaviours toward the environment. Some findings have been published early, with the full report due out in September, and answers reveal public attitudes toward recycling is positive. The recycling and waste section of the survey found a majority (81%) of people consider it their duty to recycle, yet about a quarter agreed with statements such as it takes too much effort to do things that are environmentally friendly, and I dont believe my behaviour and everyday lifestyle contribute to climate change, while about half disagreed with these statements. Two thirds agreed that Waste not want not sums up their general approach to life and more than half of respondents (52%) favoured a system that rewarded them if they recycled everything they could and penalised them if they didnt. Only 24% did not want such a system. Commenting on these findings a Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: "The findings indicate that the public supports such schemes and we think that the councils should have the power to bring them in where appropriate. But it must be a local decision. The survey also showed that recycling was seen as a positive part of a greener lifestyle with three quarters of people believing that if most people in the UK recycled more, as well as cutting down their car use or flying less, it would have an impact on the UK's contribution to climate change. However, while 60% believe people are willing to recycle more, less than a fifth think people in the UK are willing to use a car less, or fly less. Recycle Nows Fridey Cordingley said: The results of the Defra survey are in line with WRAPs recent survey which found that 61% of adults in Britain are committed recyclers; this is 16% more than when Recycle Now was launched in 2004 which clearly shows that we are making positive progress when it comes to recycling. When asked what stopped them recycling more, 41% said they "already recycle everything that they can". Of the remaining respondents, 32% said that "there was no doorstep collection", 23% that "there was a lack of facilities" and 17% that they "had nowhere to store the material". Comparing answers on questions about how behaviour impacts on climate change with beliefs about the number of people willing to do them the survey found that "recycling more" was thought to have impact and respondents thought most people would get involved. However, while those asked thought that if most people "used a car less" or "flew less" would have a major impact on climate change, few thought many people would actually be willing to do them. When asked about environmentally friendly behaviour the greatest proportion of people, 71%, said they were recycling more rather than throwing things away and intended to carry on doing so. More than half said they were wasting less food. But when considering the waste of resources in a wider context 64% of respondents said that they never leave their TV on standby overnight and a similar proportion never leave their mobile charger plugged in and half never leave lights on in rooms when not in them. But only 15% said that they would never throw away food. The LGA spokesman commented: The food waste results reflect that people dont realise the impact that their food waste has on the environment and more does need to be done on reducing food waste. A recent WRAP report that recommended weekly collections of food waste and local councils have the will to do this. But there are costs associated with it that must be considered. Again less importance seems to be applied to shopping with a reusable bag or buying products with less packaging. Just over a quarter (26%) said that they always or often use their own shopping bags. But, a greater proportion, 37%, said that they never do this. The smallest proportion, 3%, said that they always or often do not buy something because it has too much packaging, while 59% said that they never do this. More positively the survey discovered that the proportion of people saying that they were recycling paper, glass and plastic has almost doubled since 2001. In 2007 about three quarters of people said they recycled these materials, mainly via regular doorstep collection. This perception is backed up by a WRAP survey released earlier this month, which found that more people are committed to recycling. The full report and analysis of results will be published in September and a Defra spokeswoman says more will be revealed then.

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