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Retail Industry Updates

Consumers Aren’t Making Connection Between Recycling and Creating New Products


Despite the widespread shortages of toilet paper and paper towels during the coronavirus and the national media attention the shortages received, new research reveals that most consumers fail to make the connection between their recycling of paper at home and its value in providing feedstock to help make new products. That’s according to a recent survey by the Carton Council of North America, a Denton, Texas-based organization composed of four carton manufacturers: Elopak, Evergreen Packaging, SIG Combibloc and Tetra Pak.

The national survey, conducted last month, also revealed that consumers don’t understand the impact between recycling and the new products created from it. When asked how much impact recycling at home has on helping with paper shortages, 33% of consumers reported they thought recycling might have some impact on helping with the shortages, but they were not sure how much it really helped. While 18% felt recycling had no impact at all on alleviating shortages, 13% were unsure and had not thought about the connection.

The good news, regardless, is consumers say they are keeping up their recycling during the pandemic. Almost one-third of consumers (29%) report they have been recycling more during the pandemic and 56% have been recycling the same.

“It’s great to see that people are either continuing to recycle at the same rate or recycling even more since spending increased time at home and generating more waste,” said Carla Fantoni, vice president of communications for the Carton Council of North America and for Tetra Pak Americas. “At the same time, the fact that consumers still aren’t seeing the connection between recycling and creating new products means that as an industry, there’s an opportunity to better educate about the important role it plays in our supply chain and building of a circular economy.”

Food and beverage cartons, made mainly of paper, are a recyclable material that provides needed feedstock for paper mills to create new paper products.

“Food and beverage cartons contain high-quality fiber which we desire to help us keep up with demand for products like toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels,” said Michele Bartolini, senior marketing director for Sustana. “As the nation opens up, we will continue to need paper feedstock to produce new paper materials. If cartons aren’t recycled and end up in a landfill, we are losing the opportunity to utilize that material.”