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Advanced Recycling Is Recycling, 88% of Americans Say in Survey

WASHINGTON (April 20, 2023) — New consumer perception research shows advanced recycling is a widely supported approach to help recycle more plastics in the U.S. The research, conducted Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, asked Americans questions around recycling and environmental marketing claims relevant to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) planned revisions to its Green Guides. The results showed consumers are supportive of different processes used to recycle post-use plastics — both mechanical and advanced recycling are viewed as equally acceptable processes in the need to increase plastic recycling rates and reduce waste.

The full research report and the evidence-based recommendations from them will be submitted by the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division to the FTC as the Commission begins a multi-year effort to update the Green Guides.

Joshua Baca, Vice President, Plastics DivisionConsumers are increasingly interested in supporting the environment through their purchases. They are asking for packaging to contain more recycled plastic and that we increase recycling after use, and the data shows people want advanced recycling to be part of the circularity solution.Share:By The NumbersSince the Guides were last updated in 2012, newer technologies have commercialized that can help significantly increase the recycling of plastic materials. Consumers view these technologies as an important part of improving recycling.

  • 88% of Americans consider advanced recycling to be recycling.
  • RECYCLED CONTENT: 85% of consumers believe if a new plastic product is made from plastics processed through advanced recycling, the product could have a label saying it contained “recycled content.”
  • MEASUREMENT: 7 in 10 Americans (72%) believe a certified third-party measurement called “mass balance” is a responsible way to report how much recycled content is in plastic products.
    • Even more support this approach (74%) when they are told other industries, such as energy, cocoa and coffee, also use it to support sustainability and other claims.
    • A majority of respondents (64%) support third-party certifications, which provide more credibility and trust of recycled-content claims. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds (65%) of the American public want government recognition of independent third-party certifications for recycled content.
Why It MattersAdvanced recycling technologies help provide needed recycling solutions for diverse hard-to-recycle plastics packaging and materials entering the recycling stream, including film and flexibles, multi-layered pouches, tubes, and other mixed plastics. Advanced recycling complements mechanical recycling by processing many materials that would otherwise be landfilled and converting them back into virgin equivalent plastics, many of which can go into food, pharmaceutical and medical contact packaging.

ACC and its members are undertaking a variety of actions to increase recycling opportunities in this country. Since 2017, Americas Plastic Makers have announced more than $8 billion in investments to support plastics recycling in the United States and support producer responsibility policies that help fund enhanced collection and access for plastics.

RecyclableOne of the most commonly held views among surveyed consumers is that “recyclable” means “can be recycled.” Even more significant was that only 1% of respondents thought the term meant “likely to be recycled” based on access to a recycling facility, as it is currently defined in the Guides.

ACC RecommendationsBased on the consumer perceptions data, ACC submitted public comments to the FTC to look at updating the definitions for terms such as “recyclable.” ACC’s recommended changes would provide marketers and consumers with more transparency and clarity of information, which will help increase recycling — particularly harder-to-recycle plastics. This would also support improved circularity of plastics in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s circular economy goals and objectives as well ACC’s.

Additional Context:
  • Part of the FTC’s mission is to protect truth in advertising — that consumers understand the terms and claims made on packaging and in advertisements about products. Because so much of this understanding of terms is based on common knowledge of the average consumer, the FTC looks at consumer perception studies to see how people interpret the terms.
  • The FTC recently released questions for public response (what it calls a “submission of evidence”) as the first phase in updating its Green Guides, the guidance it gives to brands on marketing around environmental claims, first issued in 1992 and last updated in 2012.
  • ACC engaged Heart+Mind Strategies to conduct an independent, nationally representative survey fielded earlier this year to ask 3,007 Americans many of FTC’s recycling questions.

Publication date: 20/04/2023

American Plastics Council

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31