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Study Reports Consumer Confusion Around Plastics Recycling

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According to a new survey from Republic Services, despite high confidence levels, most consumers lack an understanding of proper recycling practices, particularly for plastics. In fact, confusion about which plastics should be recycled is leading some to forgo it altogether – at a time when demand for recycled plastics has never been stronger.

As major brands set targets for recycled content in their packaging and as states adopt minimum recycled content standards, the demand for high-quality recycled plastics will only grow but the current supply of the right types of recycled plastics falls short. Nov. 15 is America Recycles Day and to mark the day, Republic Services is sharing information to help address plastics recycling misconceptions and educate consumers on recycling best practices.

“America Recycles Day is an opportunity for everyone to brush up on their knowledge of proper recycling,” said Pete Keller, VP of recycling and sustainability. “Republic Services is committed to helping consumers understand which common plastic items can be recycled, helping to meet demand and advance the circular economy for the long term.”

The survey analyzed the recycling knowledge and habits of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers. While nearly two-thirds of respondents said they know what types of plastics can be recycled, 61 percent believed flexible plastics, including grocery bags and bubble wrap, are recyclable in their curbside bins.

As for recycling habits, water bottles, milk jugs and laundry detergent jugs are some of the most widely acceptable recyclables, yet consumers aren’t always recycling them. When asked about which items they consistently recycle, 62 percent of consumers recycle water bottles while 51 percent recycle milk jugs and 43 percent recycle laundry detergent jugs.

When recycling plastics:

  • Focus on recycling hard plastics, such as bottles, jugs and tubs, that are labeled No. 1, No. 2 or No. 5;
  • Do not recycle flexible plastics, including grocery bags, plastic wrappers or bubble wrap;
  • Do not bag recyclables;
  • Always ensure recyclables are empty, clean and dry; and
  • Check with service providers on what they accept, as recycling materials vary by location.

For more information about America Recycles Day and tips to improve recycling habits, visit RepublicServices.com/AmericaRecyclesDay.

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