In the United Kingdom, recycling is perceived to be a governmental issue rather than a personal responsibility, and in both the UK and Germany recycling is regulated by the government, forcing consumers to recycle. In China, however, recycling is not that widespread and the consumers also expect the government and manufacturers to take action.
We are starting off by looking into the United Kingdom, where recycling is now part of most consumers’ lives. Most people here started recycling when recycling bins were provided by councils, however different rules apply from one council to another and different bins are provided. Since the supermarkets in the UK started to charge for plastic bags, the focus on recyclability has increased. Very few people in the UK admit not to recycle or not doing it properly.
The reasons for not recycling are mixed:
If we take a look at the packaging itself, what distinguishes ‘good’ packaging from ‘bad’ from a recycling point of view? Here’s how the Brits see it.
So, we move on to Germany. Germans like to see their country as a role model for recycling with strong rules regarding waste separation. However, there are a few different opinions in the sense of separation effort. Some obey the rules, for the benefit of the environment with a good conscience as a bonus, others are skeptical, cynical or unsure by press reports about high energy cost of recycling and all the waste finally landing on the same conveyor belt. The Germans believe that caring about the environment means caring for future generations, meaning reducing the exhaust of natural resources, making material reusable and reducing pollution of the earth with non-biodegradable waste.
So what do the Germans think about the packaging from a recycling point of view?
Moving on to China, what do the Chinese have to say on the matter? The clearest message is that recyclability has less impact on consumers’ purchase behaviour than reusability has. When talking about sustainability and recycling, consumers in China think about good quality and environmentally friendly products. Many feel that the society should further enhance recycling policy to make sure recyclable trash gets separately collected as this will benefit the environment. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product, which has a packaging they believe can be reused at home.
Consumers in Beijing differ from the two European countries as they have the habit of collecting specific recycling packages to exchange for money. If the package is not reusable at home, they collect plastic, cardboard, and tin packages and sell them for a small amount of money to people who collect recyclable trash and in their turn sell that to processing factories. In China, only limited neighbourhood communities have separate trash bins for recyclable and non-recyclable trash, therefore a majority of people mix all trash together into trash cans at home.
So it seems people in all the three countries are interested in and willing to recycle, but in some cases would like some more guidance on the matter. When it comes to recycling, paper and board packaging is on top of consumers’ minds.