Research Paper Topics on Recycling

Because recycling promotes conservation at a time when the world’s resources seem strained, a well-researched paper on the subject should be of interest for many readers. But topics on recycling span as wide and deep as the resources it seeks to conserve. Hone in on the area that interests you most, then narrow your focus within that area. Allow yourself some flexibility; you may need to tweak your topic on recycling depending upon your research findings.

Product Design

Assess the ways in which producers design, make and package their products and how these factors produce a need to recycle. Investigate the greenhouse gas emissions of current product designs and how recycling could reduce them. Compare the upstream costs and benefits of environmentally friendly product design to the downstream cost of recovery and recycling. Define producers' environmental responsibilities and accountability and explore the effectiveness of their programs, such as recycling bin distributions, community recycling sponsorships and take-back or buy-back programs. Expound on any “lessons learned" with regard to product design and its effect on recycling.

Recovery Options

Augment the current data on how to recapture and recycle common items such as aluminum, plastics, paper and glass. Explore recycling within lesser known “frontiers” with either weak or no recycling markets, such as plastic film, carpet, engineered wood, polystyrene food trays and so on. Identify the costs and greenhouse gas reduction benefits of recycling specific items.

Behavioral Factors

Investigate consumer behavior and attitudes toward recycling. Evaluate the effectiveness of current strategies and policies aimed at maximizing their participation in recycling programs. Quantify how these strategies have reduced greenhouse gasses, increased participation or minimized the demand and use of hard-to-recycle materials. Determine how various factors influence recycling behavior, such as convenience, green labeling and trash collection fees. Explore any barriers to recycling and the strategies needed to overcome them. Identify or propose new strategies to positively influence recycling behavior among consumers.


Assess the various methods that measure and compare the effectiveness and benefits of recycling programs. Expound, improve or standardize these methods to accurately quantify various recycling programs' effects on consumption, waste prevention, reuse, composting and disposal.


Explore how government programs increase or inhibit recycling interest and participation among households, businesses and public agencies. Determine the extent to which governments influence environmentally friendly product design. Investigate the actual or potential effectiveness of government programs on recycling; for example, tax incentives, taxes, subsidies, education, sales restrictions, waste-related penalties and so forth.

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