Survey: Less than 1 out of 3 young UK consumers recycle

A new survey commissioned by PlasticsEurope and RECOUP with over 4,100 participants from the UK, Germany and Poland, reveals that there is a lack of awareness about recycling amongst young citizens (18-24 age group). In particular, less than 1 out of 3 young people in the UK recycle plastics (29% in the UK, 24% in Germany and 18% in Poland).

When it comes to the average population, less than 50% of consumers recycle all plastics after using them in the UK (45% in the UK, 51% in Germany, 35% in Poland). Interestingly, the main reason consumers do not recycle is that they are confused and ill-informed about what types of plastics are accepted for recycling. In Poland, respondents cited other barriers, such as less willingness (17%) or inconvenience to recycle (17%).  

Consumers prefer recycling  

To the question of what plastic waste management system consumers are more likely to accept, i.e. recycling, energy recovery, landfilling; 93% of UK consumers prefer recycling over landfilling and energy recovery. This result was echoed in both Germany 95% and Poland 94%.  

The study also shows that there is huge resistance among consumers to send plastic waste to landfills (Germany 70%, Poland 74% and the UK 82%). Views seem to be divided about waste-to-energy solutions. Consumers in Germany (63%) and the UK (70%) are generally positive about energy recovery, while the Polish population is evenly split: 46% pro and 45% against.  

The Public wants to know more  

The survey concludes that over half of consumers in each country are eager to know more about what happens to plastics once they are collected (64% in the UK, 74% in Germany and 54% in Poland). 

However, consumers are also less willing to pay more for the production of resource efficient products (43% in the UK, 28% in Germany and 30% in Poland).  

When questioned about their awareness and understanding of environmental terms, there was a clear divide between the three countries. In the UK, there was a high level of awareness and understanding of sustainability (81%) and carbon footprint (88%). Only a small fraction of respondents had heard about resource efficiency (21%) and the circular economy (7%).

Quotes  

Kim Christiansen, Director North Region at PlasticsEurope said: "This research recognises the need of increased engagement with consumers. Plastics waste is a valuable resource and should be considered as such, under no circumstances should plastics be landfilled.
This is why, PlasticsEurope will continue its engagement in the UK, notably by organising the IdentiPlast conference on waste management in London during the first quarter of 2019”.
 

Stuart Foster, RECOUP Chief Executive Officer added ‘it is important to understand how consumers in different countries view the resource management options available for plastics packaging, and there are some really interesting comparisons and trends in this new study. The challenge is now to implement these learnings into future consumer engagement campaigns such as Pledge4Plastics, to ensure they continue to be effective.”

Editor’s note  

The opinion survey was supported by PlasticsEurope, RECOUP and Marks & Spencer, as part of its Plan A 2025 commitment to become a zero-waste business. The research was carried out by Icaro. The total number of the participants was 4,119 and the research was completed between March and April 2017. The goal was to examine consumers’ behaviour and provide more intelligence on the public perception of plastics recycling.  

For the full report, please click here

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Contacts:  

About PlasticsEurope  
PlasticsEurope is one of the leading European trade associations with centres in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris. The association is networking with European and national plastics associations and has more than 100 member companies, producing over 90% of all polymers across the EU28 member states plus Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.  

Press contact: Nuria Buezas – nuria.buezas@plasticseurope.org

About RECOUP                          
RECycling of Used Plastics Ltd (RECOUP) is a charity and member based not-for-profit organisation working to promote plastics recycling. RECOUP is a leading authority on plastics waste and resource management, providing expertise and guidance to a wide range of members and clients across the plastics supply, use and disposal chain. Built on a network of members and much of the good work that RECOUP undertakes is achieved by the support of these valued members. RECOUP works with many other leading international plastics recycling organisations to ensure that it stimulates the implementation of the latest best practices and developments world-wide.

Press contact: Steve Morgan – steve.morgan@recoup.org  
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