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Consumers turn to brands for direction on recycling

New research reveals that on-pack messaging continues to play an important role in driving recycling.

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Consumers are increasingly looking to brand owners to facilitate recycling. That’s according to a national survey conducted for the Carton Council of North America by Research+Data Insights, in which 91% of consumers said they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages. The survey, which included nearly 2,500 U.S. adults, showed a 5% increase when compared to 2013 research that asked the same question.

Additionally, the research revealed that environmental issues are becoming more top of mind to consumers when making purchasing decisions. Seventy-seven percent reported considering the effect of their purchase on the environment.

Packaging continues to play a critical role in driving carton recycling perception, revealed the survey. Sixty-seven percent of consumers reported they would assume a package is not recyclable if it did not have a recycling symbol or language on it. The survey also showed that a majority of consumers (57%) look to a product’s packaging first for recycling information, before turning to other sources. The second most popular place is the local community website (34%), followed by the brand owner’s website at 28%.

“The survey results reiterate what we have long believed, that we must work together— the packaging manufacturers, brands, and everyone in between—to ensure we are talking to consumers in a clear way about the recyclability of our products,” says Jason Pelz, Vice President of Recycling Projects for the Carton Council of North America and Vice President, Environment, Tetra Pak Americas.

“This reinforces the importance of having the recycling logo on all packaging, but especially food and beverage cartons,” he adds. “Since access to carton recycling has been growing tremendously in the last seven years, there are still consumers who want to do the right thing but don’t know cartons can be recycled where they live.”

The Carton Council’s efforts include encouraging more Americans to recycle in communities that have access. Two years ago, the Carton Council convened the Carton Recycling Champions network. Comprised of 21 companies and brands that share a commitment to help prevent cartons from ending up in landfills, these companies support the Carton Council’s efforts to raise awareness of carton recycling with consumers.

“This research emphasizes the important role that food and beverage companies have to play,” says Wendy Behr, Senior Vice President of Research and Development and Sustainability, WhiteWave Foods—a Carton Recycling Champion. “At WhiteWave Foods, we recognize that the opportunity to promote carton recycling starts on the packaging. That’s why it’s important to us that all WhiteWave packaging has consistent messaging so consumers are educated to responsibly dispose of a product after it is consumed.”

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