Recycling initiative Pledge 4 Plastics has delivered the latest insight into consumer attitudes and behaviour towards plastics packaging recycling – which also found that 90% of respondents were unaware of the term circular economy.
When the online survey asked why people don’t always recycle their plastics, the most frequently cited barrier was uncertainty about which plastics can and can’t be recycled (34%).
This points to the importance of local authorities being able to collect consistent materials and engaging consumers in effective communication programmes about what should be recycled, but it also points to maximising the use of schemes that are working effectively.
The face-to-face survey found 79% of respondents use the On Pack Recycling Label scheme (OPRL), with almost half of the respondents referring to the label often, and 67% founding the label very useful.
Among the consumers who currently use ORPL, almost one in three (32%) use it frequently for most items. The other two thirds, by contrast, use it in particular situations – for example when they have multi-material packaging or if the item is not one that they have had before.
Other key barriers to consumer recycling include 16% not worrying about the odd thing here or there as they feel they do enough recycling, and 14% not wanting to rinse packaging in the house.
Pledge 4 Plastics said there is a challenge in how to communicate and engage with consumers about sustainable activities in clear terms and with a practical call to action.
However, over 90% of consumers in the online survey hadn’t heard of the term circular economy. With the increasing use of new terms like this, these need to be communicated effectively and embraced to build sustainable living and businesses of the future.
Kevin Vyse, senior packaging technologist and innovation lead at Marks & Spencer, said the circular economy is going to be a major driver for packaging development over the next few years.
“Without understanding the consumer, giving them the incentive to recycle and supporting them via packaging information, there won’t be enough material to drive an effective circular economy. As one of the first retailers to introduce the on pack recycling label across all our packaging, we know it is an essential tool for customers in understanding what to recycle and how”.
Steve Morgan, RECOUP technical manager, added: “Although consumer views change over time confusion about what can and cannot be recycled is seemingly as prevalent today as it was two years ago. This is reflected in the recent fall in the recycling rate in the UK. The role of OPRL in reducing consumers’ confusion can only be maximised by consistent collection of materials irrespective of where you live.”
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