DS Smith survey: Holiday shoppers overflowing with bunting and bows support recycling but want more options

Consumers busy with online holiday shopping say they are committed to recycling packages but admit resorting to bad habits sometimes when their at-home recycling bins are full, according to a national survey by paper and packaging leader DS Smith.

Nearly 70% of respondents say their recycling bins are mostly full, full or overflowing by the time collection day comes around. When their cans are fully loaded before being picked up, 20% say they throw extra recyclable material into the regular trash, meaning it needlessly could end up in a landfill. A few – four out of 10 – even stash it in a neighbor’s bin.

The findings underscore the pressure on consumers, local governments responsible for trash collection and product suppliers to follow practices that encourage recycling, help reduce waste and keep materials in use for as long as possible. 

The amount of material that needs to be recycled from homes has grown in part due to the rise in e-commerce that accelerated during the pandemic. Two-thirds of those surveyed reported an increase in the number of packages they are receiving now, compared to before the COVID-19 crisis. 

That trend is expected to grow, as about half of respondents said they anticipate shopping online more in the future. 

Signaling growing awareness of the importance of sustainability, more than 40% say they are recycling more today than two years ago, and 80% say the sustainability of packaging matters to them. Waste is seen as a problem, with two out of three respondents saying they are concerned with the amount of waste they produce. 

With the increased appetite for recycling, almost 60% of those polled say their recycling bins need to be bigger to fit their needs. About 40% say they are running out of room in their recycling bin at least every two weeks. 

“It’s clear there is real appetite among consumers to recycle but any recycling system needs to be fit for purpose – e-commerce has grown, and now we need to see investment in domestic recycling systems grow to match it,” said Keith Tornes, managing director, Paper, Forestry and Recycling North America. 

While paper-based packaging solutions are easy to recycle by nature, DS Smith is using its Circular Design Metrics to help identify areas in packaging with potential for improvement. This focus on innovation means designing out packaging waste, replacing plastics and ultimately reducing the amount of material that needs to be processed in a recycling plant. 

DS Smith has a circular business model focused on sustainable packaging in which designs are based on a circular economy approach. It is a model that is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. 

Survey methodology

The poll was conducted Oct. 14-18 with 1,000 respondents, a total that generally has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It was conducted using an online data collection methodology with the research firm Torfac.

About DS Smith

DS Smith is a leading provider of sustainable fiber-based packaging worldwide, which is supported by recycling and papermaking operations. It plays a central role in the value chain across sectors including e-commerce, fast moving consumer goods and industrials. Through its purpose of ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’ and its Now and Next sustainability strategy, DS Smith is committed to leading the transition to the circular economy, while delivering more circular solutions for its customers and wider society – replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains and providing innovative recycling solutions. Its bespoke box-to-box in 14 days model, design capabilities and innovation strategy sits at the heart of this response. Headquartered in London and a member of the FTSE 100, DS Smith operates in 34 countries employing around 30,000 people and is a Strategic Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Its history can be traced back to the box-making businesses started in the 1940s by the Smith family. North American operations are based in Atlanta, with 15 manufacturing, paper and recycling facilities, totaling more than 2,000 employees. DS Smith will report annually its progress across its climate targets in its Sustainability and Annual Reports.