Manufacturing Sustainability: Green Manufacturing News

Survey: Consumers Look to Brands and Companies When it Comes to Recycling

posted by William R. Stott
Published: March 03, 2016

Research reinforces that packaging is the first place consumers look to determine its recyclability (source: Carton Council of North America Omnibus Survey, December 2015).

As environmental issues grow in importance, consumers increasingly look to companies and brands to do their part. In a national survey conducted for the Carton Council of North America by Research+Data Insights, 91 percent of consumers say they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages. The survey, which included nearly 2,500 U.S. adults, shows a 5 percent increase when compared to 2013 research that asked the same question.

Additionally, the research revealed environmental issues are becoming more top of mind to consumers when making purchasing decisions. Seventy-seven percent report considering the effect of their purchase on the environment.

Packaging continues to play a critical role in driving carton recycling perception. Sixty-seven percent of consumers report they would assume a package is not recyclable if it did not have a recycling symbol or language on it. The survey also reveals that a majority of consumers (57 percent) look to a product’s packaging first for recycling information, before turning to other sources. The second most popular place is the local community website (34 percent), followed by the product’s company website at 28 percent.

“The survey results reiterate what we have long believed, that we must work together – the packaging manufacturers, brands and everyone in between – to ensure we are talking to consumers in a clear way about the recyclability of our products,” said Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment, Tetra Pak Americas.

“This reinforces the importance of having the recycling logo on all packaging, but especially food and beverage cartons,” said Pelz. “Since access to carton recycling has been growing tremendously in the last seven years, there are still consumers who want to do the right thing but don’t know cartons can be recycled where they live.”

Carton Council efforts include encouraging more Americans to recycle in communities that have access. Two years ago, the Carton Council convened the Carton Recycling Champions network. Comprised of 21 companies and brands that share a commitment to help prevent cartons from ending up in landfills, these companies support the Carton Council’s efforts to raise awareness of carton recycling with consumers. WhiteWave is a Carton Recycling Champion.

“This research emphasizes the important role that food and beverage companies have to play,” said Wendy Behr, senior vice president of research and development and sustainability, WhiteWave Foods. “At WhiteWave Foods, we recognize that the opportunity to promote carton recycling starts on the packaging. That’s why it’s important to us that all WhiteWave packaging has consistent messaging so consumers are educated to responsibly dispose of a product after it is consumed.”

The Carton Council was formed in 2009, with the goal to increase carton recycling in the U.S. At that time, just 18 percent of U.S. households could recycle the cartons they consumed through their local recycling programs. Since then, efforts have focused on building the infrastructure for aseptic and gable-top carton recycling, and now fifty-eight percent of U.S. households have access to carton recycling, a 220 percent increase.

Currently, more than 67 million U.S. households can recycle their food and beverage cartons in more than 11,500 communities.