A lack of cohesion and infrastructure in the plastics recycling industry is leading to consumer confusion, with many holding brands and retailers responsible for ensuring plastic waste is kept to a minimum, a study by PA Consulting has found.
According to the group, which hosted a special session alongside Unilever at this week's Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit, waste management procedures often vary between municipalities, states and countries, meaning it is difficult for consumers to know what they should and shouldn't be doing when it comes to recycling.
'Patchwork Quilt Of Solutions'
"Brands looking to make systemic changes must grapple with a patchwork quilt of solutions regionally," Tony Perrotta, PA sustainability expert explains.
Also problematic is the issue of determining who is ultimately responsible for where a product ends up in the waste stream, says PA Consulting.
"Consumers are increasingly holding brands and retailers responsible for the full breadth of sustainability, from the sourcing of ingredients through to end of life and beyond," says Perrotta. "The brands that take radical ownership of the entire process and make it easy for consumers to make sustainable choices will empower their customers to make positive changes."
Taking Radical Ownership
Taking 'radical ownership' in this instance, involves a number of responsibilities – minimising single-use plastics (or eliminating plastics altogether) is a positive step, as is more efficient product design, while for durable goods, brands should also consider 'recommerce', taking back used products for refurbishing and/or material recycling.
"With so much confusion around what’s recyclable and how to go about 'proper' disposal, brands have an opportunity to inform, educate, and lead," says Perrotta. "Be explicit about how to go about recycling various materials and make it easy for consumers to do so. Don’t leave them on the hook to figure things out on their own.
"End-to-end innovation in this space – from product design through to manufacture, packaging, distribution, and waste processing – is a complex but necessary, and rewarding opportunity."
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