Recycling plastic bottles: Study shows the gap between intentions and reality

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PETtoPET-Anlage (Foto: PET-to-PET)

Exeter, UK — Three-quarters of British and French consumers (76 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively) claim to always recycle plastic bottles at home. However, recycling rates in both Great Britain and France remain below the European average of 61 per cent meaning nearly half of all plastic bottles are not recycled. If actual at-home recycling rates do not reflect good intentions, what are the opportunities to change this?  The College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter and Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) tries to answer in a new study on“Unpacking the Household: Exploring the dynamics of household recycling“.

The key findings show:
1. Active decision-making plays only a small part in the recycling activity carried out within the household..
2. Relying on behaviour change is only part of the solution
3. Space, systems and technologies that surround householders determine how they manage their
waste
4. Misunderstanding of what happens to waste often creates scepticism and limits appreciation of the true value of recycling
5. The recyclability of different materials is perceived to be a complex issue and creates confusion
6. Recycling attitudes and behaviours also differ by age and between different generations, which has an impact on overall at-home recycling rates.

All-in-all, the study identified that day-to-day household habits have  a significant influence on recycling rates. Decisions about recycling are not always taken consciously and are often seen to be an instinctive part of everyday life. In addition, household negotiations, tensions and a general misunderstanding about recycling can have a major bearing on the quantity and quality of materials discarded.

The full study can be downloaded under cokecce.com.

Source: CocaCola Enterprises / Recycle for the future / University of Exeter