The plastic ban gathers momentum - Ipsos ‘Throwaway World’ study

Three in four (74%) Australians indicate a preference for purchasing products that use as little packaging as possible, greater than the global average figure of 71%, according to the Ipsos Global Advisor study Throwaway World conducted in 28 countries.

  • Globally, people have limited tolerance for single use plastics with 71% believing they should be banned as soon as possible
  • 80% of people around the world believe that manufacturers should be obliged to help with recycling and reuse of the packaging they produce
  • 74% of Australians report a preference for purchasing products that use as little packaging as possible.

Key Australian findings

In line with the global average, 80% of Australians believe that manufacturers should be obliged to help with the recycling and reuse of packaging that they produce.

The public awareness of the damaging nature of plastics is evident with more than two thirds (69%) of Australians agreeing that single use plastics should be banned as soon as possible.

There is a gap, however, between good intentions and actual readiness to change shopping habits. Australians have less inclination to change where they shop in order to consume less packaging: 56% agreed with the statement ‘I'd be willing to change where I shop if it meant I would use less packaging.’ 

Australians feel more warmly towards businesses that demonstrate environmentally responsible behaviour, with three quarters (74%) agreeing they feel better about brands that make changes to achieve better environmental outcomes (35% strongly agree, 39% tend to agree).

Australians are more complimentary than the global average when it comes to local household recycling services: two thirds (65%) agree that there are good household waste recycling services available, compared to the global average of 52%. A similar proportion, 67%, agree that household waste recycling instructions are clear. 

At present, not all plastics can easily be recycled, and Australians have a greater awareness of the limitations of plastics recycling than the global average, with 41% agreeing all plastics are able to be recycled, compared to 55% globally.

Commenting on the findings, Ipsos Australia Director, Jennifer Brook, said: “The environmental threat of plastic pollution has struck a chord with Australians. Emotive images of seabirds and other marine life entangled in plastic debris or dead as a result of ingesting plastic waste have likely helped convey the impacts of plastic pollution. “Now, with Victoria implementing a plastic bag ban from the beginning of November this year, every Australian state and territory, with the exception of New South Wales, has a ban on single-use plastic bags.

“These findings about Australians’ concerns around packaging, plastics and recycling are consistent with the Earth Day research Ipsos conducted earlier this year where we found that 79% of Australians are concerned about the effects of plastic on the environment and 38% of Australians think dealing with the amount of waste we generate to be a top environmental issue.”

Global findings

A majority of consumers in each of the 28 countries covered in the research agreed that manufacturers should be obliged to help with the recycling and reuse of the packaging that they produce. Greatest agreement is present in Serbia (93%), Peru and Russia (both 88%).

Consumers’ desire to exhibit sustainable habits with regards to packaging: globally, three in four (75%) agree they want to buy products with as little packaging as possible. This preference is most acute in Serbia (86%), and then Great Britain, Hungary and Peru (81% in each).

There is strong global support for banning single use plastic products as soon as possible (71% agree). Support for this dropped below 60% agreement in three of the countries surveyed: US and Saudi Arabia (both 57%) and Japan (38%).

There appears to be potential benefits for companies that are able to exhibit their green credentials to consumers with 75% advising they feel better about brands that make changes to achieve better environmental outcomes.

While many would like to consume less packaging, there are limits to what people may be willing to do personally to decrease the amount of plastic they use. Across all the 28 countries in the survey, 63% say they would be willing to change where they shop if it meant they would use less packaging. Amongst the wealthier countries surveyed, this falls to 60% (and in the US the proportion ready to change their regular shopping habits this way stands at 49%).

Unsurprisingly, the survey documents substantial variation in people’s assessments of their local household recycling services. In Russia and Serbia, less than a quarter are satisfied (24% and 22% respectively), while in Sweden and Canada satisfaction stands at 70%.  On average globally 52% considered the recycling service for household waste to be good in their local area.

Similar international variation is observed regarding the clarity of the guidelines for household recycling. Across the countries surveyed 53% agreed recycling rules are clear. Clarity is rated particularly highly by people living in Belgium and Germany, where the proportion agreeing that the services are “good” stands at 72% and 70% respectively. At the other end of the spectrum are the assessments of the local recycling services in Serbia and Russia, which stand at 22% and 21% respectively.

Looking across the 28 countries, it’s the British who are most aware of the limits of recycling, with only a quarter (24%) believing that all plastics can be recycled, compared to a global average of 55% and more than two-thirds in Poland (67%), Serbia (69%) and Peru (74%).