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Consumers Need to be Better Educated About Recycling, Report Finds

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(iStock/igoriss)

New research reveals that many consumers can’t talk the talk when it comes to recycling.

According to the Carton Council of North America, which works to deliver long-term collaborative solutions in order to divert valuable cartons from the landfill, these consumers don’t necessarily understand some of the recycling language commonly used. For example, while the term “circular economy” has become mainstream in recent years among those in sustainability and recycling circles, 62% of consumers say they are not familiar with it.

But while the majority of the respondents were not familiar with the term “circular economy,” the Carton Council’s research revealed they did overwhelmingly agree (70%) that knowing what products are created from the materials they recycle inspires them to recycle more.

The research has revealed that while we can’t let up on educating the public to recycle, we also don’t need to overthink it,” said Carla Fantoni, vice president of communications for the Denton, Texas-based Carton Council, which is composed of four carton manufacturers: Elopak, Evergreen Packaging, SIG Combibloc and Tetra Pak. “This tells us to show consumers the tangible benefits of recycling, highlighting why materials should be recycled and what they can be turned into.”

The national survey, which polled more than 7,600 consumers, also reinforces the important role product packaging plays as well as community websites, according to the Carton Council, which said its research revealed the two most influential places for consumers to determine recyclability are the packaging (55%) and their city or community website (46%). Community websites have become increasingly important in the eyes of consumers as only 28% cited them as a top place in previous research conducted in 2017, the Carton Council found.

Additionally, consumers said if they noticed a product’s package did not have a recycling symbol or language indicating it was recyclable, 74% would assume it was not recyclable, reinforcing the need for better recycling information on packages.

“For companies and brands that package products in food and beverage cartons, I encourage them to ensure their packaging is up to date and shows the recycling logo,” added Fantoni. “And for everyone involved in communicating about carton recycling, the Carton Council has resources available to help educate including, images and content.”

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