Resource Use

Global study uncovers barriers to recycling

The World Economic Forum has carried out a global study that revealed that whilst 84 per cent of those surveyed believed recycling to be extremely important, there are currently ‘key barriers’ that need to be overcome to ‘encourage them to act’.

Carried out in partnership with SAP and Qualtrics, the survey questioned people across different parts of the world, probing participants on their attitudes to climate change and sustainability. Over 11,500 individuals, spread throughout eight regions and 28 nations, took part in the study – 70 per cent of these were general consumers, whilst 30 per cent were corporate representatives.

Global recycling logoThe survey ultimately found that more than four out of every five respondents considered it ‘extremely or very important’ to personally recycle where possible – the only exception to this was within East Asia and the Pacific, where the figure fell to less than three in every four people.

Throughout the Global North, in regions such as North America and Western Europe, a significant proportion of those surveyed either labelled recycling as ‘inconvenient’ (28 per cent and 19 per cent respectively), or expressed distrust in their municipal recycling programmes (16 per cent and 24 per cent). In contrast to this, throughout the Global South, a large quantity of respondents stated that a key barrier to their participation in recycling was simply not knowing how to participate in local programmes – 33 per cent in North Africa and the Middle East; 32 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa; and 31 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Increasing recycling uptake

Beyond public opinion on recycling, the survey uncovered a number of measures that could be implemented in order to encourage consumers to make the switch to purchasing ‘sustainable’ products.

The study found that, to varying degrees, respondents would seek out reusable packaging were it less expensive: in Western Europe this was supported by 32 per cent of those surveyed, whilst in South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific this was supported by 14 per cent. Over half of respondents across the board (59 per cent) agreed that choosing products with reusable packaging was the ‘most adoptable zero-waste practice’, with a similar figure (53 per cent) also holding the view that avoiding products which are difficult to recycle would see a reduction in waste.

Extending the lifecycle of goods through repair and reuse observed strong support in the regions of North America (44 per cent) and South Asia (48 per cent). For reducing consumption to ease waste, North America and East Asia and the Pacific recorded the highest support, totalling 38 per cent for both respective regions.