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Recycling Messaging 101

At FPI, we want more foodservice packaging to be recycled. But, as we start to work with communities to get them to add foodservice packaging to their residential recycling programs, we still weren’t sure what terminology, instructions and images would most effectively increase recycling. Time for a survey!

Our web-based survey was designed to learn where residents get recycling information and the impact of language on recycling behavior. We tried to re-create the moment a resident decides to recycle an item; we showed photos of cups, containers, boxes and bags to find out how the language on foodservice packaging materials impacts people's behaviors.

The survey was completed by 1,000 U.S. homeowners, split pretty evenly between male and female respondents. Some of the key takeaways from the survey included the importance of using:

  • common language instead of industry jargon when describing recycling materials (e.g., while we like to refer to a specific type of container as a "clamshell container," the general public responds better to "plastic container");
  • clear, easy to understand words when giving instructions, such as "empty" and "clean;" and
  • visuals that are grouped by materials to emphasize acceptable recycling practices. 

We also learned that over half of respondents said a city, county or recycling company's website was the most popular source for seeking recycling information. While respondents age 18 to 34 also preferred the website, they listed social media as their second choice for gathering information.

While some of this information might seem like common sense, it's really important to us. As more communities consider adding foodservice packaging to their recycling programs, we want – and need – to be able to provide valuable guidance on messaging for recycling coordinators and residents. It’s a unique opportunity to create messaging consistency and help pave the way for correct recycling of foodservice packaging items.

To learn more about this study and best practices for recycling, you can check out our webinar with Keep America Beautiful and The Recycling Partnership at

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 11/29/2016 2:57:10 PM