Aug 7, 2021 - Economy

Vast majority of consumers concerned about plastic and packaging waste

Illustration of a recycling symbol made of dollar bills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Consumers are still confused by recycling procedures, but they say that they want to make better purchasing decisions.

Driving the news: 84% of U.S. shoppers say they’re concerned about plastic and packaging waste, according to a Consumer Brands/Ipsos survey (conducted in early July with 1,530 people) shared exclusively with Axios.

  • 47% in the same survey said they would opt for recyclable products as their first choice over compostable, given the choice between the two, while 20% said they would opt first for compostable products.

Yes, but: Even if everyone wanted to do better, there aren't enough of the options they want. Nor are the options exactly what people think they are.

  • Only 65% of plastic packaging, by weight, has been reported by companies to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment 2020 study.
  • Making up that figure, for packaged goods and retail companies, 64% is recyclable, 1.9% reusable and 0.02% compostable (with some both reusable and recyclable).
  • And when it comes to compostable items, the term often means that the packaging needs to be collected and composted in an industrial composting facility, not in backyards.

Go deeper: The emerging circular economy

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