Friday, August 19, 2011

Recycling and the News

People who regularly read newspapers are more likely to -- Captain Obvious time -- say they recycle newspapers and other papers.  

It's hardly surprising that people who regularly read a paper version of the newspaper are four times more likely to recycle paper, but how about recycling other things, like glass and plastic?  Glad you asked.
  • Newspaper readers were four times more likely to recycle cans.
  • They were twice as likely to recycle glass.
  • And they were three times as likely to recycle plastic.
So reading the dead-tree version of a newspaper makes you an environmentally sensitive recycling type?  I don't think the causality is that simple, but I wonder if being forced to do one leads you to also do the others.

To test this I constructed a quick-and-dirty logistic regression model to predict the likelihood to say you recycle paper.  Note my italics on say.  I have no doubt many overestimate such positive behaviors like voting, attending religious services, and yes -- recycling.  But let's fight with the measurement we have.  To predict recycling of paper I threw in some basic demographics like age, education, and the like.  I threw in whether you're a strong Republican or strong Democrat.  I included political knowledge.  I threw in another recycling behavior, cans, as a control.  And then I added reading the newspaper to model. Yeah, it's an ugly equation, but allow me have my geeky fun.

Below are the results, vastly simplified and stripped of statistics.  Keep in mind this is a regression, meaning all these factors are statistically controlling for one another.
  • What does NOT predict recycling paper?  Being a Republican or Democrat.  In other words, your party affiliation doesn't really matter.  I like that.
  • What does predict recycling paper?  Just about everything, even controlling for each other.  Older, more educated, higher income, non-black respondents all report higher recycling.  Females more than males.  The greater your political knowledge score, the more likely you recycle.  And yes, recycling cans means you are 14 times more likely to also recycle paper.  Even after controlling for all this -- regularly reading a print newspaper means you are more likely to recycle paper.  Duh, I know, but kinda interesting nonetheless.
Yes, but what if you flip it?  Does reading a print paper predict recycling cans?  Oh yeah, it does.  Not as strong a relationship, but statistically significant even after all the controls, including one about recycling paper.


I'm fairly sure it has something to do with good citizenship.  That's roughly what I'm going to play with for a paper, not a blog entry, but that's going to take more time and won't include such quick-and-dirty analyses.  You get roughly the same results if you replace print newspaper reading with watching television news.  But you get no effect for those who read Internet news sites or blogs. This supports my working hypothesis that there's something different about mainstream news and how it promotes good citizenship.  Be watching an academic journal near you for the results.


bethany said...

This might be oversimplifying, but do you think having a big pile of newsprint in your house might motivate you to recycle it, and then while you're at it might as well bring your cans? I think the physical presence of paper piling up might do something to people's priorities.

Hollander said...

Absolutely I suspect that being forced to deal with those piles of papers makes you think about recycling other stuff. Then again, if you're like me, the paper takes up all the space and you wonder where you're gonna squeeze in all those cans and bottles. Er, for me, especially bottles.