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DS Smith survey finds that holiday shoppers resort to bad habits when recycling bins are full

A loader moves a bale of paper and cardboard
Nearly 70 percent of respondents say their recycling bins are mostly full, full, or overflowing by the time collection day comes around. Pixabay

Consumers busy with online holiday shopping say they are committed to recycling packages but admit resorting to bad habits sometimes when their at-home recycling bins are full, according to a survey by DS Smith.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents say their recycling bins are mostly full, full, or overflowing by the time collection day comes around. When their cans are fully loaded before being picked up, 20 percent say they throw extra recyclable material into the regular trash, meaning it needlessly could end up in a landfill. A few – four out of 10 – even stash it in a neighbour's bin.

The findings underscore the pressure on consumers, local governments responsible for trash collection, and product suppliers to follow practices that encourage recycling, help reduce waste, and keep materials in use for as long as possible.

The amount of material that needs to be recycled from homes has grown in part due to the rise in e-commerce that accelerated during the pandemic. Two-thirds of those surveyed reported an increase in the number of packages they are receiving now, compared to before the COVID-19 crisis.

That trend is expected to grow, as about half of respondents said they anticipate shopping online more in the future.

Signalling growing awareness of the importance of sustainability, more than 40 percent say they are recycling more today than two years ago, and 80 percent say the sustainability of packaging matters to them. Waste is seen as a problem, with two out of three respondents saying they are concerned with the amount of waste they produce.

With the increased appetite for recycling, almost 60 percent of those polled say their recycling bins need to be bigger to fit their needs. About 40 percent say they are running out of room in their recycling bin at least every two weeks.

"It's clear there is real appetite among consumers to recycle but any recycling system needs to be fit for purpose – e-commerce has grown, and now we need to see investment in domestic recycling systems grow to match it," says Keith Tornes, managing director at Paper, Forestry and Recycling North America.

While paper-based packaging solutions are easy to recycle by nature, DS Smith is using its Circular Design Metrics to help identify areas in packaging with potential for improvement. This focus on innovation means designing out packaging waste, replacing plastics, and ultimately reducing the amount of material that needs to be processed in a recycling plant.

Survey methodology

The poll was conducted from October 14 to 18 with 1,000 respondents, a total that generally has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. It was conducted using an online data collection methodology with the research firm Torfac.

Company info

720 Laurel St.,
Reading, PA
US, 19602


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