The same survey also found that two in five Aussie consumers would be happy to pay more for more sustainable products, suggesting conscious consumerism is on the rise in Australia.
The National Waste Policy released by the Federal Government back in 2018 listed several ways consumers can improve their own ranking on the waste hierarchy with measures such as by avoiding purchasing products with excessive or unnecessary packaging, repairing or reusing items and purchase products that can be used multiple times where applicable.
However, many consumers admit they are confused by what they can or cannot recycle.
This links to another independent national audit of recycling information on products that was commissioned by the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) that suggests recycling labels are confusing for consumers who wish to purchase more sustainable products.
The audit reveals that across supermarkets, takeaway outlets and convenience stores in two capital cities here in Australia, 88% percent of packaging components sampled were actually recyclable via kerbside recycling or a supermarket-based return program, yet only 40% of these products make it clear on the label.
“The audit shows a dog’s breakfast of consumer information about what products and packaging components are or aren’t recyclable,” ACOR CEO Peter Shmigel said.
“It’s little wonder that the community regularly says that, while it strongly supports recycling, there’s confusion because of inconsistent, unclear and even misleading logos and claims on the products they buy.”
An added risk of inconsistent labels includes packaging that consumers genuinely believe is recyclable ends up in recycling which then contaminates the waste which starts a disastrous chain of events that ultimately sees the recycled waste in landfill.
This includes the Resin identification code which many consumers get confused with the general recycling symbol, thus leading to contamination of products that aren’t recyclable. For example, why PETE products such as drink bottles are widely recycled, Polystyrene items such as disposable coffee cups and plastic cutlery aren’t recyclable.
Unsurprisingly this has resulted in calls for manufacturers and distributors alike to feature a uniformed labeling system that make it clear how recyclable the product itself is.
This links to the central issue that many Australian consumers are simply still unsure of what goes in what bin.
A more universal packaging recycling labelling system would most likely make it easier for consumers to identify what they can recycle either through regular kerbside collection or a supermarket based plastic return system – such as the RedCyle system – which would significantly increase the overall recycling rate.
Featured Image: Toa Heftiba, Unsplash