Americans say they are still recycling at the same rate, despite having little confidence that their recyclables actually get recycled. A national poll conducted by Mason-Dixon on behalf of the Carton Council showed that 85 percent of respondents report they recycle. While people say they are still recycling, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents are either unsure (21 percent) of what happens to their materials, or don’t believe (44 percent) that the materials are being recycled.
The research also reveals that recycling support is highest among younger generations. The largest supporters are ages 18 to 34, with 92 percent reporting they recycle. As age increases, support decreases slightly with 89 percent of 35- to 49-year-olds, 87 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 68 percent of those 65 and older reporting they recycle.
“This is great news as it shows that the vast majority of millennials and Generation Z are supportive of recycling despite recent negative publicity,” says Carla Fantoni, VP of communications for the Carton Council in Denton, Texas. “While recycling is currently facing challenges that began with turmoil stemming from the China restrictions and bans, it is a cyclical industry and we are seeing investments in both materials recovery facilities and end markets, working to ensure recycling’s future.”
Over the past 10 years, the Carton Council has been seeking to increase carton recycling access and working to offer guidance to facilities and communities on the best ways to sort food and beverage cartons, help brokers identify end markets, and educate residents about cartons being recycled and turned into new products.
“We commissioned this research to better understand the impact, if any, on consumers’ attitudes and behavior surrounding recycling,” says Fantoni. “It is reassuring to see a commitment to recycling, even when consumers are unsure of what happens to the materials. This reinforces that we, as an industry, need to work together to ensure recycling is actually occurring and show consumers what happens to the recyclables after they leave their curbs, removing their skepticism.”
The Carton Council is composed of four leading carton manufacturers, Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Evergreen Packaging and Tetra Pak. Formed in 2009, it works to deliver long-term collaborative solutions in order to divert valuable cartons from the landfill.