New research shows third of people believe recycling efforts have little impact on environment
Over a third of people believe their recycling efforts are having little effect in improving the environment in the UK; that’s according to new research commissioned by DS Smith.
The leading sustainable packaging company, DS Smith, which recycles up to a third of all paper in the UK, found that that almost half (48%) of consumers don’t think that packaging in the UK is easily recyclable.
With two thirds (67%) saying that there is a lot of conflicting advice on recycling and a similar number (60%) saying that the disposal instructions on items are hard to find.
Analysis from Kemsley mill, the largest mill for recycled paper in the UK, has revealed its ‘Dirty Dozen’ – the top 12 items that are hardest to recycle when put into mixed or paper recycling streams.
According to the research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, the most common Dirty Dozen items put in the recycling bin are junk mail (72%), food trays (38%) and pulp fruit trays (28%) – with soup cartons (21%) and crisp tubes (18%) also making an appearance.
Rogier Gerritsen, Managing Director at DS Smith Recycling said: “While many people are doing their best to recycle commonly used items, the problem starts way before then in how a product is made. Our Circular Design Principles ensure that recyclability is built in at the start of the process, not at the end.
“By designing packaging which reduces the number of different components used and contains labelling that is easier for customers to understand, we increase the quality of the recyclable products and reduce the current volume of materials that are rejected. We are working with our customers and others in the industry to help achieve this so that we can create a truly circular economy.”
The full ‘Dirty Dozen’ are the top 12 items that are cause for concern when put into recycling streams, due to contamination from hard to recycle materials and the reasons why.
The chief offending items are junk mail, food trays pulp food trays, food cartons, crisp tubes, glittery gift wrap and greetings cards, padded envelopes, sandwich wrappers, insulated food delivery packaging, coffee bags and pouches, wax and silicone papers from items such as butter wrappers and fast-food soft drink cups.
Plastic and other material contamination can cause significant challenges at paper mills, adding additional costs and waste into paper making.
There is also a significant environmental impact, with large volumes of plastic ending up in paper recycling streams - in 2021 alone, the equivalent of 391 million bin bags of plastic contamination was collected at Kemsley Mill which can end up being burnt or landfilled if other recycling options cannot be found.
To help improve the quality of recycling in the UK, 50% of consumers said they would like to see clearer labelling on products in stores, one in two (49%) would like more fibre-based (cardboard/ paper) packaging options on supermarket shelves and 40% would rather use multiple bins for different types of rubbish if it meant that more of their items could be recycled.
DS Smith is working with the packaging supply chain, from policy makers and Local Authorities and brands, to provide a range of solutions to tackle the issue of hard to recycle packaging products.
To date it has removed 170 million problem plastics from supermarket shelves, online retailers, and industry through the creation of 1,000 wholly recyclable fibre-based packaging solutions – covering everything from wine boxes and ready-meal trays to shrink wrap and fresh fruit punnets. DS Smith’s R&D team is also exploring barrier technology development and innovation to replace packaging solutions and applications that contain hard-to-recycle plastics.