Recycling: An unresolved challenge – Part 1

It’s been two years since we started our Great Green Sustainability Study, yet one message comes through every time we run the study – consumers need help to enable them to recycle more.

Recycling is widely considered one of the easiest ways to be sustainable in our everyday lives, and that’s proven by the 90% who claim to regularly recycle. However, most also agree that they could do more.

So, what’s stopping them?

Confusion is the major issue. Most consumers claim a lack of clarity leads them to not recycle as often as they potentially could.

Who’s responsible for resolving this?

Our research suggests there are two key players, who could really make difference in encouraging better recycling: Local Authorities and Manufacturers.

This article focuses on Local Authorities and what they could do to help ease this confusion.

Local Authorities: Focus on clear, consistent communication

1) Consistency across councils

Consumers regularly report back the inconsistencies they have observed across their local councils. A simple Google search reinforces the point they are making. If we look at 3 local councils in Surrey – Elmbridge, Surrey Heath and Spelthorne – we can see that Elmbridge and Surrey Heath accept foil, Spelthorne doesn’t; Surrey Heath accepts aerosols, Elmbridge and Spelthorne don’t.

Consumers question this inconsistency, and it leads to frustration and scepticism over what is really happening with the packaging – is it all really being recycled?

2) Clarity of what can and can’t be recycled

Over two-thirds of consumers agree that local councils need to be clearer about what can and can’t be recycled, an issue which is further exacerbated by conflicting information on the product packaging. This was confirmed in qualitative research we ran, in which there was some debate over juice cartons with some claiming their council did accept them, but other councils did not accept them.

3) Clarity of which bin packaging goes in

Although 38% of consumers claim they know a lot about which recycle bins each item goes in, approximately a third of those who feel they don’t recycle enough blame a lack of clarity over which bin certain packaging should be put in. In some instances this lack of clarity has led to bins not being collected and as a result a feeling of frustration.

To find out more about our Great Green Sustainability Study or how we can help you with sustainability research, contact Tom Gould, Head of Consumer, on

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