Resource Use

DS Smith highlights generational gap in recycling behaviours

New research from packaging company DS Smith highlights an emerging generational gap in UK recycling, where Gen Z ‘lack recycling confidence’. Younger generations are reportedly finding it difficult to understand what should be recycled and how, despite being considered the most ‘environmentally conscious’.

Dorset collection ‘fiasco’ finding its feetDS Smith’s survey found that Gen Z – categorised as those born between the mid to late 1990s and the 2010s – are less confident about what packaging can be recycled (66 per cent) than those over 55 (81 per cent). The younger generation is also twice as likely not to know where to find advice on recycling (11 per cent) compared to over 55s (four per cent).

Two thirds of Gen Z respondents (67 per cent) told DS Smith that barriers to recycling in the UK prevented them from recycling efficiently, in comparison to less than half of over 55s (41 per cent). The packaging company says that this suggests that ‘changes to the UK recycling infrastructure may be needed’ to improve and simplify recycling for the younger generation.

In support of this, the business’ survey found that 20 per cent of younger individuals were confused about what recyclable items go into which bins, and said that there were not enough recycling bins from local authorities (16 per cent).

DS Smith’s research also points out that labelling is a key factor in recycling confusion, with 63 per cent of Gen Z saying that recycling labels on the packaging are ‘hard to understand’.

The company also identified regional recycling gaps in the Government’s recent waste statistics, where England failed to meet the recycling target of 50 per cent of waste from households by 2020.

Rogier Gerritsen, Managing Director at DS Smith Recycling said: “There is no doubt that people want to play their part in helping the environment. The challenge is making things as simple as possible to enable people to do so.

“With the UK setting ambitious targets for paper and card recycling over the next decade, it’s time to re-think our approach to recycling. Continued collaboration between policy makers, local authorities and the recycling sector is key to make sure we have a recycling infrastructure that makes it easy for consumers to understand.

“To boost recycling and help us deliver on our targets, the system needs to be simplified, with consistent collection systems and proper segregation of materials at kerbside. Not only would this give consumers clarity and help to increase the volume of recycling, it would help protect the quality of paper and card destined for recycling, meaning more material staying in use for longer.”