Fewer than 30 percent of young UK consumers recycle

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There is a lack of awareness about recycling among young United Kingdom citizens aged between 18-24, with fewer than 1 in 3 recycling plastics, according to a new survey commissioned by PlasticsEurope and RECOUP.

The survey, with over 4,100 participants from the U.K., Germany and Poland, also showed that despite a low 29 percent recycling rate among the youth, the U.K.’s rate stands above Germany’s 24 percent and Poland’s 18 percent.

When it comes to the average population, only 45 percent of consumers recycle all plastics after using them in the U.K. This compares against 51 percent in Germany and 35 percent in Poland.

The main reason most consumers cited for not recycling was confusion and being “ill-informed” about what types of plastics are accepted for recycling.

In Poland, respondents cited other barriers, with 17 percent saying they were not willing and another 17 percent describing it as "inconvenient."

Consumers, however, showed their preference towards recycling, as opposed to landfilling in terms of waste management, with 93 percent in the U.K. voting for recycling. The figures for Germany and Poland were 95 percent and 94 percent.

The survey concluded that a large number of Germans, 74 percent, as well as a majority of British and Polish citizens (64 percent and 54 percent respectively) were eager to know more about what happens to plastics once they are collected.

When questioned about their awareness and understanding of environmental terms, there was a clear divide between the three countries. In the U.K., at 81 percent, there was a high level of awareness and understanding of sustainability and 88 percent knew about carbon footprint.

However, only 21 percent of respondents had heard about resource efficiency and 7 percent about circular economy in the U.K.

"This research recognizes the need of increased engagement with consumers. Plastics waste is a valuable resource and should be considered as such, under no circumstances should plastics be landfilled,” said Kim Christiansen, director north region at PlasticsEurope commenting on the survey results.

This is why, he added, PlasticsEurope will continue its engagement in the U.K.

As part of this, the organization is holding the IdentiPlast conference on waste management in London during the first quarter of 2019.