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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

Go deeper

Charted: Soda pop bottle demand

Data: S&P Global Platts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Outsized demand for recycled plastic material has caused its prices to nearly double what they were last year, per the WSJ.

Driving new demand: The fashion industry, which has started to move toward recycled plastic-based clothing.

Updated Nov 9, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on sustainable transportation

On Tuesday, November 9th, Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller explored the policies, sustainable technologies and recyclable materials spearheading electric vehicle deployment for a new mobility future, featuring Redwood Materials co-founder & CEO JB Straubel and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

JB Straubel highlighted the importance of sustainable materials in battery production, how battery supply chains play a crucial role in creating many of the world’s sustainable products, and the issues surrounding recycling end of life batteries.

  • On the important role of battery supply chains in spearheading sustainability: “I think now, even more than a few years ago, it’s coming into really clear focus that the supply chain around the battery in particular, is a really critical topic for sustainability and most of the products that sustainability is relying upon in their industrialization.”
  • On planning ahead for responsible large-scale battery disposal: “We have to make sure that we’re planning ahead. Planning ahead both for the supply chain scale-up that’s needed to accomplish this in a sustainable way...and also planning ahead for the end of life and making sure that we don’t have unintended or unexpected environmental impacts associated with that end of life....”

Sen. Angus King illustrated which policies will be most effective to accelerate the transition to EVs, how the U.S. can become less reliant on other countries for battery supplies, and the potential future of recycling batteries to create circular supply chains.

  • On reducing U.S. dependence on other countries’ battery supply chains: “As I say, there’s a very important national security aspect of this, and it’s a matter of stimulating and developing the domestic industry, including mining and processing.”
  • On optimism surrounding a major transition to electric vehicles in the future: “I’m optimistic. I think we’re going to develop a recycling market. I think we’re going to see more battery manufacturing here in the U.S., and I think we’re going to see far more EVs out on the road, and the climate will be all the better for it.”

Axios SVP of Events & Creative Strategy Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top segment with DuPont President of Mobility & Materials Randy Stone, who explained the plastic industry’s role in expanding sustainable transportation.

  • “The plastics industry can bring an integrated and holistic set of solutions that help the adoption of EVs, and if we do that, of course, we get much better sustainability, we get lower carbon emissions, we get better fuel efficiency...there’s a really, really important role that we play to advance this hybrid and electric vehicle trend that we see today.”

Thank you American Chemistry Council for sponsoring this event.

Updated 11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker