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Poll: Americans Incorrectly Believe Plastic is Most Recyclable Material

plastics recycling
The poll found that 58 percent of respondents believe plastic materials are endlessly recyclable, but that’s not always the case.

A new survey released by Consumer Action found that most consumers are misinformed about the recyclability of plastic, resulting in purchasing and recycling habits that harm the environment, and ignore basic facts about the nature of plastic products and other packaging materials.

The poll found that 58 percent of respondents believe plastic materials are endlessly recyclable, when, in fact, plastic food and beverage products are commonly "downcycled" into lower-grade products or sent directly to landfills, the survey points out.

"Consumers have been educated on the importance of recycling programs for decades," said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action, in a statement. "While recycling is key to reducing pollution and landfill growth, consumers need to be better informed about what happens to the containers they buy at the store. There is clearly a disconnect between the types of containers that can be recycled endlessly and those of limited, if any, recycling value."

The national poll also found that 73 percent of respondents consider helping the environment an important factor in what they buy and that there was significant consumer appetite for shifting purchasing to food sold in endlessly recyclable containers, such as metal cans and glass jars. For example, 77 percent of respondents support the shift from single-use plastic packaging to metal, which can be recycled infinitely without a loss of quality.

Consumer Action called upon corporations to offer more food packaging options for eco-conscious customers.

"Better recycling decisions begin in the checkout aisle," added McEldowney. "But without other options, offered at a reasonable price, consumers will continue to be forced into buying products in limited-use plastic containers. Consumers and companies must do better. The survey results make it clear consumers are willing to buy foods in more recyclable containers if manufacturers make them more diverse and available.”

Check out the full results of the survey here.

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