Recycling? We can’t be bothered, says ‘Facebook generation’

A YouGov poll of over 2,500 people, commissioned by environmental solutions company Veolia, found that those aged 18-24 were the most uncaring generation when it came to recycling and wanting to make a positive difference.

The nationwide study found only 57% of 18-24 year olds in Britain think it is very important to recycle as much household waste as possible, compared to 74% of over 55s.

According to the research, the ‘Facebook generation’ are also the least likely to say that responsibility for recycling falls to the individual householder.

Only 29% of 18-24 year olds think they bear the most responsibility to recycle, as compared to 42% of over 55s, preferring to hold local and national government accountable for doing it. 

The survey also found:

•    26% of 18-24 year olds think the EU’s target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020 is too low – as compared to 40% of over 55s

•    81% of women “feel guilty” when they don’t separate their rubbish whereas only 69% men feel the same way

Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice President of Veolia in UK and Ireland said: “Most people assume that younger people are more socially and environmentally conscious, yet this study turns this logic on its head. 

“The UK needs to meet ambitious recycling targets. These are achievable provided that we can keep up the pace, continue promoting it in engaging ways and make it simple. Unless we do something to change these attitudes we will find it increasingly hard to convince future generations to take recycling seriously.” 

Veolia works directly with young people across the UK to raise awarness of environmental challenges and show how they can help contribute to a more sustainable future. Activities include hosting tours at its recycling centres for schoolchildren to creating a shadow advisory board of young people. 

Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice President of Veolia in UK and Ireland said “In the fast paced world of the younger generation, where time is of the essence, recycling sometimes does not make it into the top of their priority list. We specifically see this in areas with a high student population where we find large amounts of contamination in their recycling. For many this is because it is their first time away from home, for others they may not see it as being their problem and for some they are confused as the rules are different from where they lived before. In the age where we buy and throw away a new mindset is needed that should be matched throughout higher education in schools to truly understand the importance of recycling and how it reduces our dependence on precious resources.”

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Notes to the Editor


Research methodology 

 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,535 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd and 3rd July 2014.  The survey was carried out online.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


 About Veolia UK


We are committed to protecting the environment and improving the lives of the communities in which we operate and have been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development and received a Four Star rating in Business in the Community’s Corporate Responsibility Index for 2014.


Veolia group is the global leader in optimised resource management. With over 187,000 employees* worldwide, the Group designs and provides water, waste and energy management solutions that contribute to the sustainable development of communities and industries. Through its three complementary business activities, Veolia helps to develop access to resources, preserve available resources, and to replenish them.

In 2013, the group Veolia supplied 94 million people with drinking water and 62 million people with wastewater service, produced 54 million megawatt hours of energy and converted 38 million metric tons of waste into new materials and energy. Veolia Environnement (listed on Paris Euronext: VIE and NYSE: VE)recorded consolidated revenue of €23.4 billion* in 2013.


(*) 2013 pro-forma unaudited figures, including Dalkia International (100%) and excluding Dalkia France. Excluding Transdev employees and revenue currently under divestment.