Gen Z recycling confusion suggests urgent need for simpler services

New research points to an urgent need for simpler recycling systems in the UK to ensure participation among younger people. 

Members of Gen Z lack confidence in their ability to recycle properly when compared with older generations, according to a recent study. 


Research commissioned by packaging giant DS Smith shows that while 81% of over-55s believe they understand what can and cannot be recycled, this figure falls to just 66% among Gen Z. Younger people are twice as likely not to know where they can find information on recycling services, too, with 11% unsure as to where reliable sources are. 

67% of Gen Z  blame ‘barriers to recycling’ in the UK, suggesting there is an urgent need for reform and the introduction of simpler services across Britain. 20% of younger people aren’t clear on what items can go into each bin, while 16% believe there are not enough bins provided by local authorities, and the majority say packaging needs to be better labelled to help distinguish what can and cannot be recycled. 

‘With the UK setting ambitious targets for paper and card recycling over the next decade, it’s time to re-think our approach to recycling. Continued collaboration between policy makers, local authorities and the recycling sector is key to make sure we have a recycling infrastructure that makes it easy for consumers to understand,’ said Rogier Gerritsen, Managing Director at DS Smith Recycling. 

‘To boost recycling and help us deliver on our targets, the system needs to be simplified, with consistent collection systems and proper segregation of materials at kerbside,’ he continued. ‘Not only would this give consumers clarity and help to increase the volume of recycling, it would help protect the quality of paper and card destined for recycling, meaning more material staying in use for longer.’

Last monthEnvironment Journal spoke to Scotland’s new Circular Economy Minister about the need to reuse, new investment in recycling, and the behavioural step changes needed to create jobs and help the planet. 

Image credit: Sigmund



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