Less than a quarter of UK adults confidently understand the term ‘circular economy’

There is a lack of understanding of the term ‘circular economy’, despite the system being hailed as a solution to sustainability challenges, according to the findings of a new report.

Hi-Cone, a supplier of ring carrier multi-packaging systems for global beverage markets and provider of sustainable packaging solutions to major consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, released its latest State of Plastic Recycling report, which found there is a lack of understanding of term ‘circular economy’.

However, UK respondents placed a high importance on recycling at home, particularly that of plastic waste, a key step towards building a circular economy, it says.

The research, conducted by YouGov, surveyed more than 5,000 adults across the United States, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom, and found that 79% of UK respondents indicate that they recycle 75% or more of their plastic waste.

The research builds on the company’s last year’s findings, which it says ‘expands the scope’ to determine the public’s understanding of the term ‘circular economy’; to better determine the public’s level of support for recycling; whether the public’s participation in recycling matches their intentions; which groups, institutions and agencies people look to for recycling solutions; and how these organisations can best direct their efforts to increase public engagement.

Education and public spaces

The need for ongoing education and greater access to programmes and facilities emerged as central themes.

In all four countries, respondents identified a key group of stakeholders – consumer goods companies, plastic packaging manufacturers, government and consumers themselves – as being primarily responsible for providing effective plastic recycling resources and solutions.

Consumers also indicated a shared responsibility among these core groups for expanding knowledge and influencing behaviour toward achieving a circular economy.

Better leadership and guidance from these stakeholders was highlighted as important to build consumer knowledge and motivate behaviour.

The majority of UK respondents (62%) believed more recycling bins are needed in public spaces, 38% suggested more recycling centres and 34% indicated that more home facilities, such as recycling collections/recycling bins, were required.

The UK had a high percentage of respondents (61%) that already send materials to recycling facilities through the post or would be likely to do so in the future. This is the greatest number of respondents compared to other territories, Hi-Cone says.

Considerable progress

“Considerable progress has been made in minimising plastic waste through a robust reuse and recycling infrastructure,” states Shawn Welch, Group President, Packaging Equipment and Consumables Platform.

“The information contained in this new report will help stakeholders further accelerate the transition from a traditional, linear economy, in which used products simply become waste, to a far more vibrant and sustainable circular economy.”

By releasing the report each year, the company aims to provide a ‘comprehensive, up-to-date resource’ to support its own sustainability efforts as well as those of the packaging industry and across the globe.

Shawn Welch continued: “As 2021 unfolds, people will re-adjust to life in a post-pandemic world, experiencing many changes; some minor, others profound. Among them will be the
ever-present need for greater action in realising an efficient and effective circular economy
for plastic.

“By working together, through focused and purposeful application of the recommendations presented in Hi-Cone’s 2021 State of Plastic Recycling report, we can all help make these meaningful goals a reality.”

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