It would be good to see a complete ban on unrecyclable packaging and a reduction in non-essential plastic products.
People believe that manufacturers are still using too much packaging and that it’s not always clear what can and can’t be recycled, a recent study has shown. But becoming plastic free or just reducing the amount of plastic used in the UK is not getting any easier.
An online label manufacturer surveyed more than 3,000 people aged over 18 asking them what frustrates them most about recycling to find out what irritates people the most about recycling in the UK.
They found the biggest issues were: manufacturers using too much packaging (39 percent), not knowing what you can and can’t recycle (24 percent), lack of local recycling options (11 percent), and the fact the onus has been put on the consumer and not manufacturers (11 percent).
Inconsistent and unresponsive
The majority of people are frustrated with the amount of packaging manufacturers use.
Many respondents commented on the fact that lots of products come in packaging that isn’t currently recyclable, and manufacturers still use black plastic that cannot be recycled for food products despite complaints from consumers.
The research showed that a lot of people struggle to know what can and can’t be recycled and that this varies around the country because different councils recycle some packing that others don’t, meaning that you need to search to find the correct information for your area.
The feedback showed a lot of people feel that councils are guilty of not providing enough local recycling options and many argue that items which are sent for recycling actually end up in a landfill or shipped abroad.
Following on from this survey, Seareach asked respondents what they thought would be useful solutions to the current recycling situation in the UK.
Shifting the onus
The survey found that people most wanted: recycling at supermarkets for all packaging (68 percent), consistent and understandable labelling (67 percent), councils to be more transparent about recycling (65 percent) and apps to scan barcodes for recycling info (38 percent).
The study showed that a lot of people want to be able to recycle where they buy their items - at the supermarket - and better labelling that makes it clear what can and can’t be recycled, along with consistent recycling systems across the country.
Consumers also wanted to see a change in what materials can be recycled, such as wrappers and foil packaging, and an end to foil-plastic hybrids that can’t currently be recycled.
People also want to see the onus on manufacturers and councils to help consumers recycle. Ideas suggested include: more recycling points in towns and cities, different bins for recycling on the high street like in cities such as Toronto adopted in the UK, and more or better options for people living in flats and sheltered accommodation to have more recycling bins which are easily accessible for disabled and elderly.
Respondents saw technology as a tool to help people recycle more and more efficiently, and supported the idea of apps that can scan product barcodes that also show how to recycle the packaging and where.
Speaking about the in-depth study on recycling, Stuart Jailer of Seareach said:“The feedback we got from this study was eye-opening with a huge amount of ideas people have and what they want to see in the UK.
"Everyone wants to be able to recycle effectively, however, they find this increasingly harder to do despite numerous campaigns on plastic and pollution. Improved labelling, more places to recycle various packaging types and ways to utilise technology were key points people wanted to see changed.
“A lot of people were concerned that even though we sort our packaging at home, once it gets to councils, we don’t know that it’s getting properly recycled. Instead, people worry that a lot of it is heading to landfills or being shipped abroad.
"Consumers want to have more transparency and also want to see manufacturers actually being proactive about the problem, with many people sick of the onus being on the consumer. It would be good to see a complete ban on unrecyclable packaging and a reduction in non-essential plastic products."
Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor for The Ecologist. This story is based on a press release from Seareach.