DS Smith calls for UK recycling simplification after Gen Z found “binboozled” by current system
09 Aug 2022 --- DS Smith has revealed that a generational gap in recycling is emerging in the UK, with older people more confident than younger generations that they understand how to recycle packaging waste.
The British multinational packaging business says the findings highlight the need to simplify the UK’s recycling system, particularly for younger generations.
While Gen Zers are often considered to be the most environmentally conscious age group, they have the least confidence when it comes to recycling. The survey showed that they are less confident about what packaging can be recycled (66%) than over 55s (81%) and twice as likely not to know where to find advice on recycling (11%), compared to just 4% of over 55s.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of Gen Z respondents (67%) blame barriers to recycling in the UK, compared to 41% of over 55s, suggesting that changes to the UK recycling infrastructure may be needed to improve recycling among the younger generation.
The study was conducted by YouGov, with a total sample size of 2081 adults. The fieldwork was undertaken between February 18-20, 2022, and the survey carried out online.
The Gen Z respondents cite confusion over what recyclable items go into which bins (20%) and not enough recycling bins from local authorities (16%) as issues.
Labeling is also a key factor, with 63% of Gen Z respondents saying recycling labels on packaging are hard to understand.
“There is no doubt that people want to play their part in helping the environment. The challenge is making things as simple as possible to enable people to do so,” says Rogier Gerritsen, managing director at DS Smith Recycling.
“With the UK setting ambitious targets for paper and card recycling over the next decade, it’s time to rethink our approach to recycling. Continued collaboration between policymakers, local authorities and the recycling sector is key to make sure we have a recycling infrastructure that makes it easy for consumers to understand.”
DS Smith says it has removed over 313 million pieces of harmful plastic from circulation in the past two years by replacing plastics with fiber-based alternatives.
Regional recycling gaps
In addition to the generational gap highlighted in the DS Smith research, regional recycling differences were revealed in the government’s recent waste statistics, where it became clear that England has failed to meet the government’s target to recycle 50% of waste from households by 2020.
The UK household recycling rate actually decreased from 46.0% in 2019 to 44.4% in 2020, prompting DS Smith to call for source segregation, through which household waste such as paper, glass and plastic are collected separately to drive up recycling levels.
“To boost recycling and help us deliver on our targets, the system needs to be simplified, with consistent collection systems and proper segregation of materials at kerbside. Not only would this give consumers clarity and help to increase the volume of recycling, it would help protect the quality of paper and card destined for recycling, meaning more material staying in use for longer,” explains Gerritsen.
DS Smith reported 71% growth in profit before tax, rising from £231 million (US$279.6 million) in 2021 to £378 million (US$457.6 million) in 2022.
By Joshua Poole
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