Girl holding and protecting a Globe

Change of awareness due to the coronavirus?

Throughout the current pandemic, awareness is growing among many people in Europe that the world must use resources more responsibly. However, according to a recent study, respondents have so far only applied this to a limited extent in their own everyday life: Almost two thirds (63 percent) of the German respondents stated that they have not changed their personal consumption of resources during the corona crisis and stated they do not plan to do so. For comparison, in France and Norway half of the respondents did not change and will not change their consumption habits due to corona, and only 36 percent in the UK.

TOMRA commissioned the “ReThink study” with the survey institute Kantar asking around 4,000 people in the UK, Norway, France and Germany about their consumption and shopping behaviour since the corona pandemic, with around 1,000 for each country.

The results in all four countries show that it is the younger people between the age of 18 and 29 who are most likely to forego consumption. In this age group in Germany, a third (34 percent) stated that they had changed their consumer behavior. In the group of people aged 60 and over, the figure was only 18 percent. Also, in France, the UK and Norway the proportion of people who consume or want to consume less was significantly higher among the “young” than among the “old”.

ReSociety: Rethink completely for a more sustainable world

The reluctance to consume in the areas of clothing, travel, luxury goods or gastronomy for example can only partly be explained by the economic and social life that has declined as a result of the corona pandemic. Overall, the population is becoming more aware of the global economic situation and using resources more responsibly, but when it comes to living more sustainably in everyday life, there is often still a gap between aspiration and reality.

Volker Rhermann
Volker Rehrmann TOMRA Executive Vice President and head of the Recycling/Mining

Additionally, more information is needed about which small steps can achieve great things. For example, separating plastic and cardboard packaging before throwing them away.

In this context, TOMRA recently launched “ReSociety”: an initiative and platform that is intended to bring together knowledge and ideas from companies, politics and consumers – with the common goal of completely rethinking the world for a more sustainable future. You can find more information on this on ReSociety. The ReThink study is intended to examine trends and developments on the path to a “circular economy” every two years – a global circular economy that redefines the term growth by focusing on positive social and ecological developments.

Large majority avoid plastic when shopping – exception: Norway

According to the study, most respondents from all countries (85 percent) believe that it is time to rethink how to handle disposable packaging. In fact, three out of four Germans (75 percent) say they already avoid plastic when shopping. In France and the UK, the proportion is similarly high at 71 and 72 percent respectively, while in Norway it is significantly lower at 56 percent.

At the same time, however, many people are not prepared to pay more money so that the goods can be produced or packaged more sustainably: In France, 50 percent of those surveyed reject additional expenditure, in the UK 49 percent, in Norway 45 percent, in Germany 47 percent. Across all countries, the older the age group surveyed, the less willingness to pay more – this willingness only increases slightly again with the age group of 60 and above.

As consumer behavior is only slowly changing and a growing global population will continue to consume huge amounts of resources in the future, the scenario of a global circular economy is becoming increasingly important, especially for plastics. TOMRA has announced that it will collect and recycle 40 percent of the post-consumer plastic packaging worldwide by 2030. Currently, only 14 percent is collected for recycling purposes worldwide – and most of it is not reused for the same purpose but has to be classified in a lower quality category.  

The participants in the study in Germany, France, the UK and Norway also seem to see the enormous potential, with an overwhelming majority – 94 percent – of all respondents agreeing that the topic of recycling will become more important in the future, or at least not lose its importance.  

A modern recycling infrastructure can help ensure that the potential of recycling becomes reality – because it motivates consumers to actively participate in this cycle. Conscious consumption combined with a high recycling rate – these two factors together can make an enormous contribution to the resource revolution that we need for a sustainable future.

Volker Rhermann
Volker Rehrmann TOMRA Executive Vice President and head of the Recycling/Mining