Brits not willing to put concern about plastic waste into action

The issue of plastic waste is firmly on the agenda, with the ‘Blue Planet effect’ bringing the problem into mainstream consciousness.

But a new Ipsos survey has revealed that whilst almost all Brits are worried about the effects of plastic waste on the environment, only a handful feel that consumers should take responsibility for the problem, with most of the respondents saying they are reluctant to help solve the problem if it will cost them money.

The survey of 1,681 adults aged 16-75 across the United Kingdom, found that seven in eight adults claim to be at least ‘fairly concerned’ about the issue, but most do not feel that consumers should take most responsibility for finding a way to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging which is sold.

40% believe responsibility should be shared equally among consumers, goods producers, retailers and government, while 27% put the most responsibility on companies who produce packaged goods, 13% on the companies that sell them and 11% on government.

Just 3% lay the most responsibility at the door of consumers.

Many of the public say that they themselves would be prepared to take some steps towards solving the problem, but far fewer say they would do things to help that would cost them money. Three-quarters (75%) say they would re-use plastic bags and bottles, and more than half (54%) would be willing to buy more products made from recycled materials. However, less than half (43%) would stop buying goods that have packaging that cannot be recycled, and fewer still would be willing to stop visiting supermarkets and shops which use a lot of unrecyclable packaging (18%), pay more council tax to fund improved recycling facilities (14%) or pay extra for goods that have no packaging that cannot be recycled (12%).

The survey also found that there is no wide agreement on which steps might help combat the problem in Britain, although several solutions were seen as likely to be effective by a substantial proportion of those asked.

Around half of adults interviewed feel higher taxes on retailers that use a lot of unrecyclable packaging (48%) and forcing local councils to spend more on recycling (47%) would be effective, and almost as many (45%) think the government naming and shaming supermarkets and shops that use of unrecyclable packaging would help reduce the problems caused by the issue.

Two in five (41%) believe a tax on containers such as plastic drink bottles and disposable coffee cups would be effective. Rather fewer thought that big fines for households who do not recycle enough of their rubbish (25%) or a public information campaign, funded by taxpayers’ money (19%) would work well.

Antonia Dickman, director at Ipsos MORI, said: The public may say they are worried about the levels of plastic pollution and packaging, but they admit they are unlikely to take the initiative in doing anything about it.

It poses a challenge for policymakers and businesses that some of the steps that the public feel might be most effective in tackling the problem, are ones that they themselves would not support in practice: 47% of the public think forcing councils to spend more on recycling would help, but only 14% would pay more council tax to achieve it; and 45% think naming and shaming the retailers responsible would be effective, yet only 18% would stop using those retailers.’

 Yesterday the government announced the introduction of a deposit-return scheme, in a bid to encourage the public to recycle more.

Read the full report here 

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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