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E-commerce boom heaps pressure on consumer recycling

UK shoppers say they are committed to recycling packages but admit to bad habits when their at-home recycling bins are full, according to a survey by paper packaging specialist DS Smith.

Nearly 70% of respondents say their recycling bins are mostly full, full or overflowing by the time collection day comes around. When bins are full before then, one in five throws extra recyclable material into the general waste, meaning it will be incinerated or go to landfill. Four out of 10 admit to stashing ther extra in a neighbour’s bin.

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

Almost 60% of those polled want recycling bins to be bigger to fit their needs. About 40% say they run out of room in their recycling bin at least every two weeks.

Keeping pace with e-commerce

Two-thirds of those surveyed reported an increase in the number of packages they are receiving now, compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. This is in part due to the booming e-commerce market, which currently exceeds US$ 10 billion (EUR 9.4 billion). Around half anticipate shopping online more in the future.

‘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, recycling specialist at DS Smith.

Circular design

While paper-based packaging is straightforward to recycle, DS Smith uses its Circular Design Metrics to help identify areas for improvement. This focus on innovation means designing out packaging waste, replacing plastics and ultimately reducing the amount of material that has to be processed in a recycling plant.

DS Smith has a business model focused on sustainable packaging in which designs are based on a circular economy approach. It is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

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