MMH    Topics 

Survey reveals gap in consumer recycling behavior, knowledge

Survey commissioned by the Paper and Packaging Board shows 95% recycle, but fewer than half know the basics of recycling

While 95% of Americans say they recycle (and only 25% of them recycle ‘some of the time’), fewer than half know the basics of recycling, according to the 2021 Consumer Recycling Habits survey by the Paper and Packaging Board (P+PB), part of its sustainability initiative.

A July 2021 survey of 1,005 U.S. consumers age 18 or older revealed that Americans are largely confused about the proper ways to recycle, including what materials are recyclable. In fact, nearly half do not know that boxes should be emptied and broken down for pick-up (49%), where they can drop off recycling (46%) or information about their designated recycling days (44%). When it comes to recycling extra-large items, over a quarter of people do not know how to properly break down and recycle these items (29%), and roughly the same amount of people don’t know who to contact with recycling questions (27%).

“As individuals take steps toward a more sustainable future, choosing paper and paper packaging can be a key step because paper products are sourced from a renewable resource – trees.” said Mary Anne Hansan, president of P+PB. “With this survey, we hope to increase awareness around recycling, encourage daily recycling habits and propel people to become a force for nature. Not only is recycling good for the environment, it also can boost our happiness and confidence.” 

Regardless of the varied views of and habits on recycling, nearly half of Americans (47%) agree that paper is one of the easiest materials to recycle, compared to other materials such as plastic (34%), metal (11%) or glass (9%).

The need for increased recycling is at an important inflection point, in which consumers are shopping online more than ever in parallel to rising concern around climate change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spent $791.7 billion on e-commerce in 2020, up 32.4% from 2019. More packages arriving to homes and businesses means more packing materials and boxes that should be properly recycled.

The survey also revealed that the adoption of ongoing recycling routines (or lack thereof) may correlate to Americans’ overall feeling of happiness and confidence. Nearly 4 in 5 (78%) people who do not always recycle confess they feel guilty
about this sub-par behavior, with women more likely than men to feel guilty when they do not recycle (82% vs. 72%).

Americans who always or frequently recycle say they are doing their part to save the planet (88%) – compared to those who only sometimes or rarely recycle (67%).

Unfortunately, 76% of Americans do not know how many times paper and cardboard can be recycled. Many may be surprised to know that these materials can be recycled and repurposed up to seven times when balanced with new fiber. Educating consumers around all the innovative and useful ways that this material can be repurposed through recycling or repurposing in creative ways is key to further adopting the practice into their everyday lives. Americans can follow three simple steps to adopt paper and cardboard recycling into their everyday lives to ensure a more Earth-friendly environment:

  • Empty packaging and boxes, removing all excess paper, products and other materials
  • Flatten the box by safely breaking down boxes at every corner
  • Recycle the cardboard and paper materials according to local guidelines

“It’s incredibly important for people to help ensure a healthy and sustainable planet – whether it’s choosing paper over other materials, recycling or reusing paper products to help reduce waste altogether,” Hansan added.

Article Topics

Paper and Packaging Board P and PB
Paper recycling
   All topics

Latest in Materials Handling

Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association releases semi-annual statistics
Zebra study: nearly six in 10 warehouse leaders plan to deploy RFID by 2028
Conveying Strategies for Robotic Applications: How to Maximize Throughput
Combilift enters offshore wind sector with handling solution, collaborating with Siemens Gamesa
Kion Group partners with Li-Cycle to recycle lithium lift truck batteries in Europe
Record-breaking Pack Expo Las Vegas exceeds expectations
Dexterity AI and FedEx unveil robotics trailer loading technology
More Materials Handling

Subscribe to Materials Handling Magazine

Subscribe today!
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
Subscribe today. It's FREE.
Find out what the world's most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today.

September 2023 Modern Materials Handling

Providers of automated packaging and carton right-sizing solutions have thrived by offering systems that deliver on labor and parcel shipment savings— now they’re looking to further evolve by looking to use lighter materials and support flexible “box-first” workflows.

Latest Resources

Conveying Strategies for Robotic Applications: How to Maximize Throughput
This webinar will discuss the recent development of embedding motion-control technology into conveyors to enable packages to be correctly presented to a robot so that throughput of the manual task that the robot has been assigned to perform is maximized.
Improve safety and ergonomics with code-compliant stairs
Outside the Box: Why parcel shippers are suddenly focusing on packing
More resources

Latest Resources

2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
This research was conducted by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Modern Materials Handling to assess usage and purchase intentions forautomation systems...
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
Discover how your storage practices could be affecting your pest control program and how to prevent pest infestations in your business. Join...

Warehousing Outlook 2023
Warehousing Outlook 2023
2023 is here, and so are new warehousing trends.
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Today’s robotic and data-driven automation systems can minimize disruptions and improve the life and productivity of warehouse operations.
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Download this white paper to learn more about how both systems compare.