Gen Z find recycling confusing: study

New data, has revealed that a generational gap in recycling is emerging in the UK – with older people more confident than younger generations when it comes to understanding what and how to recycle.

While Gen Z are often considered to be the most environmentally conscious, of all age groups surveyed, they have the least confidence when it comes to recycling. The survey showed that they are less confident on what packaging can be recycled (66 percent) than over 55s (81 percent), and twice as likely not to know where to find advice on recycling (11 percent), compared to just four percent of over 55s.

Two thirds of Gen Z respondents (67 percent) blame barriers to recycling in the UK, compared to 41 percent of over 55s, suggesting that changes to the UK recycling infrastructure may be needed to improve recycling among the younger generation. They cite confusion over what recyclable items go into which bins (20 percent) and not enough recycling bins from local authorities (16 percent) as issues.

“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, DS Smith Recycling managing director.

Simplifying systems to boost recycling

As well as the generational gap highlighted in the DS Smith research, regional recycling gaps were revealed in the government’s recent waste statistics, where it became clear that England has failed to meet the Government’s target to recycle 50 percent of waste from households by 2020.

“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 curbside,” Gerritsen said.

“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.”