Many people are confused about which products are recyclable and ignore the growing problem of waste generation. Such conclusions were reached by a group of researchers from the University of Virginia, which studies the psychology of waste, writes Futurism.

Scientists shared their findings with The Conversation. In their experiments, they found that many people overestimate the recycling aspect of the waste management industry’s slogan of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” This has led to the public mistaking recycling as a free ‘ticket to freedom’.

Within the experiments, the researchers asked participants to list “reduce,” “reuse,” and “recycle” in order of effectiveness. The correct answer was as in the given slogan. However, 78% of respondents gave the wrong answer.

In the second experiment, the researchers invited participants to use a computer program to virtually “sort” waste into recycling, compost, and trash cans. The results of this survey were also disappointing. Many mistakenly threw non-recyclable waste into the virtual trash can, for example, plastic bags and light bulbs.

As you know, microplastics from consumer waste continue to pollute oceans, land and living organisms. Many governments are trying to stop and even ban the distribution of single-use plastic products such as plastic straws and bags. But the industries responsible for their creation continue to produce more and more of them.

The burden of reducing, reusing and recycling ultimately falls on consumers. This status quo does little to solve the global waste crisis.