We don’t mean to bring on the negativity, but US recycling rates are abysmal. About 75% of American waste is recyclable, yet just 30% of it is actually recycled. The figures are even worse with materials like plastic. Less than 10% of plastics disposed of in the U.S. in 2015 were recycled.

In a quest to find a way to motivate Americans to recycle more, consumer psychologists tried to change the message used to promote recycling; rather than guilt-tripping consumers, the psychologists altered the message to focus on the transformation into a useful product that a piece of waste could have when recycled properly. After all, by definition, recyclable is a product that has future use.

After conducting a series of studies that applied this idea both in the lab and the real world, the psychologists found consumers were far more likely to…
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