Americans are recycling their food and beverage cartons more than ever, and continue to look to brands to actively help drive the recycling of their products’ packages, according to a new survey by the Carton Council of North America, Denton, Texas.
The national survey of more than 6,900 U.S. adults showed that 61% of respondents report they always recycle their food and beverage cartons, up 11% from when the survey was last conducted two years ago.
“The survey findings highlight that as more Americans have gained access to food and beverage carton recycling, awareness that cartons are recyclable has also increased,’’ says Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment for Tetra Pak Americas, Denton, Texas. “This validates that the widespread consumer education conducted by companies and brands, local communities, as well as our own campaigns, is working and gives us great motivation to continue driving our efforts.”
Consumers also have high expectations for the brands they purchase, the survey reveals. In fact, 56% said their loyalty to a food or beverage brand is impacted by the brand’s engagement with environmental causes.
The survey also found that consumers overwhelmingly expect food and beverage brands to be committed to recycling. More than nine out of 10 (92%) said brands should take an active role in helping to increase the recycling of packages, up slightly from 2016.
A product’s packaging continues to be a key factor in determining whether an item is recyclable or not. The survey showed that packaging remains the top source for determining recyclability (47%), while friends and family as well as the news gained momentum. There was a 16 percentage point increase in family and friends as a source for recycling (34%) and a 17 percentage point increase in the news as a source (29%) from 2016.
What’s more, nearly two-thirds (65%) said that if a package did not have a recycling symbol or language indicating the item is recyclable, they would assume it is not recyclable. Additionally, consumers’ belief that recycling is important is at an all-time high. A total of 94% of survey participants said recycling is important and people should do what they can to recycle, up from 90% two years ago. And, nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) believe people should make recycling a priority, up significantly from 61% during the last survey.
“Consumers increasingly believe that recycling is important, and are looking to companies and brands to help,” says Pelz. “This provides an opportunity for brands to become even more engaged in recycling and consumer education.”
As of January 2017, food and beverage cartons can carry the standard “Please Recycle” logo based on the milestone that more than 60% of U.S. households have access to carton recycling, a threshold set by the Federal Trade Commission green guidelines for packaging.
Findings from the research are based on a survey of 6,936 interviews conducted by Research+Data Insights, Austin, Texas. The survey included a nationally representative sample of Americans who reported access to curbside recycling programs in their area. Recruitment was conducted for those in each state with 30% or greater access to curbside carton recycling. Responses were collected online in December 2017.