The Carton Council, a Denton-based nonprofit that aims to find long-term collaborative solutions to divert valuable cartons from landfills, has released new research that shows consumers don’t “speak the same language” as those in the recycling and packaging industries.
Based on a national survey of 7,627 interviews conducted by the Logit Group, the Carton Council found that most people aren’t familiar with commonly used sustainability terminology. The research included a sampling of Americans who reported access to curbside recycling programs in their area.
This is especially important to note as stakeholders work to educate more consumers to recycle this Earth Day—and every day.
For instance, “circular economy” has become mainstream in the industry’s inner circle, but 62 percent of respondents said they weren’t familiar with the phrase. National Geographic defines the circular economy as one that uses resources sparingly and recycles endlessly. It’s a vision that could be possible if the movement catches on culturally, the magazine notes.
But as the Carton Council found, that won’t be possible without more awareness.
“The research has revealed that while we can’t let up on educating the public to recycle, we also don’t need to overthink it,” Carla Fantoni, vice president of communications for the Carton Council, said in a news release. “This tells us to show consumers the tangible benefits of recycling, highlighting why materials should be recycled and what they can be turned into.”
The surveyed group mostly agreed (70 percent of participants) that knowing what products are created from the materials they recycle inspires them to do it more.
And it’s mainly about the packaging, too—74 percent of participants said they would assume a product was not recyclable if they noticed it didn’t have a recycling symbol or language indicating that it was. Fifty-five percent listed packaging as the top place to determine recyclability, with their city community website (46 percent) following.
The Carton Council sees this as reinforcement that there’s a greater need for better recycling information on packages.
“For companies and brands that package products in food and beverage cartons, I encourage them to ensure their packaging is up to date and shows the recycling logo,” Fantoni said. “And for everyone involved in communicating about carton recycling, the Carton Council has resources available to help educate including, images and content.”
Founded in 2009, the Carton Council is comprised of four carton manufacturers: Elopak, Evergreen Packaging, SIG Combibloc, and Tetra Pak. The industry organization promotes recycling technology and local collection programs, all with the aim to grow awareness that cartons are recyclable. The end goal is to limit the number of cartons that become waste.
Over the past decade, the team says it has had “significant success” with its united effort. From here, the Carton Council intends to continue building a sustainable infrastructure for carton recycling nationwide, while also adding household access across the U.S.