Recycling obstacles: Nestlé Waters reveals nearly half of consumers say it’s easier to bin than recycle plastic
14 Nov 2019 --- Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) has unveiled its third annual comprehensive national study, This is How We Planet: America’s Perspective on Water, Packaging and Health. The bottled water manufacturer reveals that while most consumers agree that national plastic waste has gone overboard, nearly half of US citizens surveyed say it is easier to throw away plastic than to recycle it. Furthermore, the report indicates that rural communities are particularly disadvantaged by a lack of accessibility to recycling infrastructure.
“One thing is clear from our 2019 study: US consumers are deeply concerned about plastic waste. They feel they should be recycling more and expect companies that use plastic in their products to do more, but those surveyed expressed facing obstacles in taking action,” says David Tulauskas, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at NWNA.
“Since last year’s America Recycles Week, we have made an effort to address some of these challenges to help realize a circular economy. We are on track to quadruple our use of recycled plastic across our domestic portfolio and we continue to support organizations that help improve access to recycling and inspire consumers to recycle more,” he adds.
The study outlines the following statistics:
- 94 percent of US citizens believe that society produces too much plastic waste, and yet 42 percent of those surveyed say it is easier to throw away plastic in their area than to recycle it.
- Rural communities, in particular, are at a disadvantage, with 52 percent of rural residents saying that it is easier to throw away plastic in their community than to recycle it.
- Nearly three in four citizens (74 percent) expect to see more action from companies that use plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste.
- Only about half of citizens (52 percent) feel they are aware of what kinds of plastic are and are not recyclable. Those who reported being aware of how to recycle plastics were nearly twice as likely to always recycle compared to those who were not aware (52 percent compared to 29 percent).
- Citizens “overwhelmingly support” campaigns that encourage individuals to do more to recycle (86 percent) and explain the recyclability of different types of plastic (83 percent).
Creating an end market for recycled plastic
NWNA has committed to increasing its use of recycled PET (rPET) in its products. Some of these products include the October 2019 launch of the Nestlé Pure Life “DC Collection,” a line of “kid-friendly” superhero-themed bottled water made from 100 percent rPET. Moreover, the company introduced 900ml bottles of Poland Spring Brand ORIGIN in April and the Nestlé Pure Life 700ml bottle in February 2018.
NWNA communicates that it now has three of the only nationally distributed major bottled water offerings on the market made using 100 percent recycled plastic. In June, Poland Spring Brand 100 percent Natural Spring Water announced its plans to reach 100 percent recycled plastic across its still water portfolio by 2022, and has already started the transition with its1L and 1.5L still water sizes being made with 100 percent recycled plastic.
Poland Spring also teamed up with nonprofit organization The Recycling Partnership to tackle one of the core reasons for low US recycling rates: Consumer confusion. Under the initiative, the collaboration launched an Instagram recycling hotline to help to answer the question, “Can I recycle this?”
“NWNA is working with a number of strategic suppliers to purchase recycled plastic. It plans to expand that roster of suppliers to purchase even more recycled plastic to use in its other bottled water brands across the country. This is part of the company’s journey to achieve 25 percent recycled plastic across its US domestic portfolio by 2021 and 50 percent by 2025,” the company further states.
Is it enough to recycle?
A report issued last October by action group Break Free from Plastic has questioned the overall impact of recycling in curbing ubiquitous plastic waste, instead advocating the development of reusable packaging models
Following 484 cleanups in over 50 countries across six continents, the report names Nestlé among other beverage giants Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo as a “top polluting company.” The Break Free From Plastic report also blasts the FMCG heavyweights for only offering “false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis they have created.”
Essentially, recycling will not solve the issue and making a product recyclable doesn’t mean that it will be recycled, nor will it remove the adverse human health impacts of the chemicals in plastics, warns the group – which is comprised of more than 1,800 organizations.
Many believe that cutting down plastic use instead of feeding it back into the system may be the way forward. In a recent survey by UK-headquartered DS Smith issued earlier this week, six out of ten European consumers (62 percent) say they would be willing to pay more for food products that contain less plastic packaging. A similar number (59 percent) indicate that they sort and recycle more than they did five years ago.
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