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Consumer Research

3 Consumer Recycling Insights

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Enter a simple phrase into a search engine like “best recycling practices” and countless results will appear. Narrow the search to a local area and increasingly conflicting results may appear. A plethora of contrary best practices makes recycling challenging, particularly if the person searching for answers is a consumer. 

Consumers want to make smart recycling choices, but they often lack access to information about recycling guidelines and impact. To help, Sonoco commissioned a study from AYTM. This study focused on identifying what kinds of recycling information U.S. consumers wanted and viewed as helpful. Below are three insightful findings:

1.    Consumers want to recycle everyday consumer products.

84.2% want packaging for familiar products like soda cans to be recyclable. Even if part of this packaging can be recycled, consumers are eager to recycle accurately. From coffee canisters to cardboard boxes, consumers want to dispose of packaging instead of contributing to waste or global warming. When provided with current and accurate recycling guidelines, consumers can help contribute the right items to local recycling streams and prevent delays at sorting centers associated with improperly recycled items.

2.    Consumers want to do their part to reduce global waste.

When asked how much of a familiar package (e.g., water bottle) is being reprocessed or recycled into material for new use, they had a variety of opinions. More than half believed that 50-75% of familiar packaging is recycled. Slightly over a quarter believe less than 50% of the package is recycled. And only 13% believe 100% of the package is recycled. Small, medium or large contributions—consumers are interested in doing their part. When empowered to knowledgeably recycle everyday packaging, they can reduce unnecessary waste and inaccurate contributions to local material recovery facilities (MRFs).

3.    Consumers want to receive more details on local recycling guidelines.

Over half of consumers wanted access to detailed information, enabling them to recycle everything they possibly can. With semi-frequent reminders, consumers feel updated and informed about how to prevent waste and harm to the environment. Whether discarding packaging from the refrigerator or from the cupboard, consumers want to learn how to reduce waste in their local landfills. When regularly and accurately informed, they can ensure their recycling practices fit within local recycling regulations and practices. This study revealed that consumers are not only committed to recycling but also care about having accurate recycling guidelines and information. When consistently informed, they can function as an ally, informant and champion of local recycling practices. 

Learn about consumers’ perspectives on recycling!