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Consumers' uncertainty undermines plastics recycling

Plastics is the material consumers are most uncertain about when it comes to recycling, research by recycling association Recoup has suggested.

The findings of a survey of 4,000 people indicated that over half of consumers are confident on how and what to recycle, but are unsure about one or two materials.

Around a third pointed at plastics in general and films and pots, tubs and trays as the materials that generated most confusion.

Presenting the results at an the Kent Resource Partnership’s annual event, Recoup chief executive Stuart Foster (above) described the survey as the “largest and most insightful plastics recycling survey ever undertaken”.

He pointed out consumer uncertainly had negative implications for plastics recycling, since 77% of respondents indicated that if unsure, they would discard the materials into to the residual waste bin.

Consumers said that they would be more prone to recycle if their council accepted more plastics materials and if it provided them with better guidance, as well as packaging materials carried better recycling labels.

Respondents were also asked to rate how acceptable the available treatment options were.

Landfill was condemned by over 90% of respondents, while recycling into new packaging or other items was considered the best alternative.

Using materials for energy-from-waste in the UK received the approval of over 70% of respondents and was preferred to export.

The survey was part of the initiative Plastics Please, which received funding from Defra, the Kent Resource Partnership and a steering group of organisations interested in improving communications on plastics recycling, such as WRAP, Coca Cola Enterprises, Marks and Spencer and Veolia, among others.

The steering group will now consider the findings of the survey and put together a plan that will be launched in Spring 2014.

At the launch of the report, waste minister Dan Rogerson acknowledged the effort of the plastics industry across the supply chain to develop an “action plan” to improve recycling.

“It is extremely positive,” he said. “This type of partnership working between different parts of the industry and local and central government is exactly what is needed to ensure the necessary actions are taken forward to deliver recycling targets.”

Recoup Survey

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