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YouGov polls shows Cardiff’s changing attitudes to recycling during Covid-19

Manufacturers and not taxpayers should bear the cost of recycling waste and returning it to the circular economy. That’s the view of Cardiff consumers according to a YouGov poll commissioned by UK recycling company Viridor.

Viridor’s Recycling Index, which has been tracking public attitudes to recycling for five years, found that over two-thirds (68%) of consumers polled in Cardiff believe taxpayers currently carry the cost of recycling, with two thirds (62%) saying that producers/manufacturers should pick up the bill. In addition, the index found that 55% of Cardiff consumers thought that the businesses selling these products should be accountable, with 39% calling on the Government to contribute to recycling costs.

The Viridor-YouGov survey, which put a series of questions to 1,000 people in Cardiff and the surrounding area, also found that more than half (53%) of the city’s consumers expect that 100% of plastic packaging should made from recycled material by 2030.

Viridor CEO Phil Piddington explained: “Viridor has been listening to consumer attitudes to recycling for five years and applying the lessons we’ve learnt to the way we run our business. Like the people of Cardiff, we think manufacturers should bear the cost of recycling because it’s important to take responsibility for everything we produce and because this will be a powerful motivating factor influencing product design.

“This ‘producer pays’ approach, along with our support for the Government’s proposed Plastic Tax, more standardised local government collections and clearer labelling which helps consumers recycle more, reflects our response to five years of commissioning the Viridor Recycling Index. It’s reassuring that these messages have come out loud and clear from the public in Cardiff.”

Exporting plastic waste

Mr Piddington said the company’s investment in plastic reprocessing capacity was the key to ending the export of recyclable plastic.

“Our index tells us that three-in-five of those polled (60%) in Cardiff think that none of the UK’s plastic waste should be exported. We agree which is why we are building a £65m plastics reprocessing plant in Avonmouth, on the other side of the Bristol Channel, which will draw the heat and power it requires from a co-located energy recovery facility. This site is in addition to our specialised plastics recycling and reprocessing facilities at Rochester in Kent and Skelmersdale in Lancashire. It demonstrates that we can use non-recyclable waste to power a recycling facility and return more plastic to the circular economy. We will also be able to stop the export of recyclable plastic Viridor receives with the successful commissioning of the Avonmouth plant because we will have created the reprocessing capacity we need for plastic here in the UK.”

Impact of COVID-19

The increase in single-use products amid the COVID-19 pandemic has not had a negative impact on attitudes to recycling in Cardiff. Of those polled, 49% said the pandemic had made it more important to find recycling solutions for all materials, 35% suggested energy recovery was the best solution for these products and only 13% thought recycling was of secondary importance for the time being.

Awareness about recycling

Cardiff consumers also demonstrated they care about recycling. Almost half (48%) said they would be more encouraged to recycle if they knew what happened to their waste when it was recycled; and over a third (34%) said they would be influenced by a greater awareness about how recycling was having an impact on the wider environment.

With an increasing focus on returning products to the circular economy, and using recycled material over virgin plastic, the poll revealed that around nine in 10 Cardiff consumers would still buy their regular products if the packaging changed to reflect different coloured/recycled plastic (86%) or a different material (86%). However, they were not inclined to pay more for products made from recycled materials, with 44% unwilling to pay a penny more, 31% agreeing to pay 10% extra and only 9% willing to pay 20% or more.

Encouraging more recycling

When asked about what would encourage them to recycle more of their household waste, 68% of Cardiff consumers wanted to see greater standardising of recycling instructions on packaging and, while 73% said they understood what Viridor’s message of “Right Stuff, Right Bin” meant, only 61% felt they were provided with enough information on how and what to recycle.

A further challenge for consumers is on-the-go recycling. The survey recorded confusion from residents when they were asked how easy it was to recycle when they were not at home. Over half (52%) of Cardiff consumers said food packaging was difficult to recycle, with plastic cups (43%), paper cups (37%) and glass drinks bottles (32%) also proving a challenge out-of-the home.

The Viridor poll showed that labelling on packaging continues to be a stumbling block. Although 38% said they frequently noticed recycling signs on packaging, only 10% of Cardiff consumers found the labelling very easy to understand.

For waste which cannot be recycled, 89% believed that energy recovery, which uses non-recyclable waste to generate heat and power, remained the favoured option.