Professor Myriam Ertz conducted an action research project with the consulting firm 5REDO to consider consumer behaviour when it comes to circular plastics. Read a summary of their research in circular economy.
Given the significant increase in single-use and durable plastic waste, this study focuses on the type of plastic that can a priori best lend itself to the circular economy, namely durable plastic. One of the objectives of the project was to develop a portrait of sustainable plastic recycling by Canadian consumers. This portrait also allows the private research partner (5REDO, Inc.) to develop scenarios to better engage consumers in the circular economy of plastics. The study therefore began with a literature review to determine the broad categories of factors influencing consumers. These are threefold: macro (e.g., political, economic, technological, legal), situational (e.g., perceived duration, perceived cost, perceived efforts to recycle) and individual consumer level (e.g., attitudes towards recycling, intentions to recycle, etc.). This step will have spurred the development of a questionnaire for a Canada-wide survey of 1000 respondents, in which various situational and individual factors are explored, but also behaviours (e.g., recycling behaviours). The study led to several findings:
- There is a massive commitment to recycling on the part of consumers.
- Household collection is still the overwhelming majority, as curbside collection is used by most Canadians, while centralized drop-off recycling and drop-off recycling are in the minority.
- The recycling system is perceived to be inefficient.
- Canadians are increasingly engaging in environmentally responsible shopping by using reusable bags rather than plastic bags on rolls and the majority are willing to participate in programs that provide them with everyday essentials in reusable and recyclable packaging.
- Low use of bulk grocery stores, renting goods and services instead of buying, and perceived constraints of reusable container programs remain significant barriers to the development of the plastic circular economy.
Avenues for improvement have also been identified to increase the impacts of environmental actions. The project has already resulted in a significant dissemination with 1 article, 1 news note, 1 report, and a communication to come. Testing of the hypotheses using the survey data will further enhance the project’s outreach.