DS Smith survey: Pandemic-induced online shopping leaves many frustrated by lack of recycling infrastructure
A pandemic-induced surge in e-commerce has left shoppers with more boxes than ever before, triggering a rush by consumers to embrace recycling and raising the demand for sustainable packaging. But while there's more interest in sustainability - especially among millennials - many buyers say they're frustrated by the amount of unrecyclable material showing up and the lack of easy access to local recycling sites.
Those are among the major findings of a national survey by DS Smith, a leading paper and packaging company that focuses on creating innovative and sustainable packaging solutions.
A previous DS Smith survey shows 44 percent of respondents report getting more deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic. An overwhelming 83 percent of consumers surveyed say the packages they receive aren't fully recyclable because they contain other materials like plastic or Styrofoam. Only 17 percent report getting all-recyclable packages.
The survey, taken last month, revealed dramatic home and lifestyle changes, with 30- to 39-year-olds having the largest jump in recycling habits due to the pandemic. More than a quarter (26 percent) say they're recycling more, followed by those age 18 to 29 doing more at 21 percent.
Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents would describe the recycling in their local community as highly accessible, with recycling being picked up from their house.
But there's still work to be done, with 35 percent reporting they have to take their recycling to a specified location. And 17 percent say they don't have any access to recycling in their community.
That's especially common in rural areas, with 74 percent of respondents there saying they either have to take their recycling to a specific location (46 percent) or have no access to recycling in their communities (28 percent).
Traditionally, waste management companies have operated using a simple "management of waste" approach to operating a MRF. Throughput targets and continuous operation (minimal downtime) were the main driving forces. The industry has changed however, and the focus moving forward is now on optimizing system performance and reliability, in conjunction with increasing recycling rates and a drive for a "greener" and more sustainable tomorrow.
When considering the addition of, or upgrade to, an "intelligent" MRF, for municipalities or private operators, the main factors should always be the client's (operator) current requirements, and evolving market needs, which include throughput, reliability, output quality, and adaptability. Equally important is a full understanding of what is really expected from any proposed system. Having an engaged and focused mindset for the project with the client from the beginning, will impact and drive the entire design process. This then impacts the overall project result, through to the productive, efficient, ongoing operation of the facility itself.