In this second iteration, the research was expanded 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 organizations can best direct their efforts to increase public engagement.
"Considerable progress has been made in minimizing 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."
Who is primarily responsible for providing effective plastic recycling resources?
The 2021 State of Plastic Recycling report surveyed more than 5,000 adults across the United States, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom. It focused on their behaviors, knowledge and attitudes towards plastic packaging recycling and other key aspects of a circular economy for plastics.
In all four countries, respondents identified a key group of stakeholders – packaging manufacturers, consumer goods companies, 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 behavior toward achieving a circular economy.
The need for ongoing education and greater access to programs and facilities emerged as central themes among those surveyed with fewer than one-third (31%) indicating confidence in understanding what the term "circular economy" means. Despite this lack of certainty, a majority of people indicated personal behaviors that aligned with the phrase's objectives. More than half (61%) said they recycled three-quarters of their plastic waste. Across all geographies, the reported ratio of recycling participants to non-participants was nine-to-one. More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents indicated that increasing facilities and/or guidance would positively influence them to recycle plastic more frequently. These findings indicate the possibility for industry stakeholders to further educate and engage the public as well as the potential among consumers for increased participation.
Long a proponent of a circular economy for plastic, Hi-Cone has made considerable strides in its own sustainability journey. Among them are the formation of several cross-industry partnerships, including a recycling partnership with TerraCycle in the UK, with Avangard Innovative in the US, and the launch of their +50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content product, RingCycles, which reduces the company's use of virgin plastic by more than half. 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 concludes, "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 realizing an efficient and effective circular economy for plastic. By working together, through focused and purposeful application of the recommendations presented in Hi-Cone's 2021State of Plastic Recycling report, we can all help make these meaningful goals a reality."
Hi-Cone is 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. As in 2020, Hi-Cone fielded the recent survey through the international research data and analytics firm, YouGov.