Recycling is something we need to think about every day and yet I still feel like I know very little about how to do it and I know I’m not the only person. For a long time I thought the rules were simply ‘if it’s plastic, cardboard or glass then pop it in the recycling bin’ but I now know it’s a lot more complicated than that.
I used to work as a packaging designer for a vac formed packaging company and whilst there I always understood that if there isn’t a recycling logo in the bottom of a plastic pack, it can’t actually be recycled. I now understand that this advice was incorrect and there are various different sorting machines in recycling centres which can figure out the type of plastic and separate it accordingly so therefore that’s plenty of times I’ve put stuff in the waste bin when I could have recycled. The problem is this isn’t the case in every centre and so sometimes consumers really do have to look at the bottom of their packs to see if they can put their packaging in the recycling bin or not.
Information overload and decision fatigue
We are quite lucky in Cambridge as our local council takes pretty much everything which could be recycled in the one bin. The problem is there are different rules between each local council and so when travelling from place to place it’s very easy to get something wrong. I had a holiday in the Brecon Beacons last year and there were three laminated pages up in the utility room explaining exactly what can and cannot go in each of the many boxes they had outside for recycling. I really want to do my part and try to recycle but it is frustrating having to invest so much time studying local recycling rules to work out what is right and wrong.
I know I’m not alone in this, there are plenty of people who simply put something in the black bin as they just don’t know what to do with it or to be honest – they just don’t care, as when it’s gone it’s not their problem anymore. Although it’s great that more sustainable packaging is emerging in the market, consumers are only going to get more confused with the increased variety they need to sort.
We need to find ways to help consumers in this immensely complex system to improve the rates of correct recycling. At Cambridge Consultants we have started thinking about possible opportunities to help and we have just completed an internal project which looks at how brands in the food and beverage market could improve their recycling targets by generating insight and helping consumers by giving them the tools and the incentive to recycle correctly. If you want to find out more please follow this link.
We will be demonstrating our smarter recycling concept at Drinktec in Munich, 11-15 September.