Consumers are demanding circular materials - and opting out of brands perceived as unsustainable. This according to a recent survey of 5,000 respondents in five European markets, commissioned by Stena Recycling in the run-up for this year's Circular Initiative. Here, business leaders from major industrial companies meet to discuss the industry's responsibility for the transition to a circular society. For companies that want to meet consumers in their commitment to climate-smart and circular products, the survey provides many valuable insights.
Every year, around 100 billion tonnes of new materials are extracted around the world. A circular economy requires that these materials are used for as long as possible and can be used as resources for new products, over and over again. Ahead of this year's Circular Initiative, an arena where world-leading industrial companies come together to pave the way for the circular society, industry leader Stena Recycling commissioned a survey of consumer attitudes towards circular materials. The insights from the consumer survey, with 5000 respondents from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Poland, are collected in the Circular Voice report.
This year's Circular Initiative will take place digitally on 5 May. As business leaders, experts and researchers gather for the fourth consecutive year to discuss circularity and transformation, the conversations are based on the Circular Voice report. And there are many valuable insights to be gleaned for companies that want to go circular.
Consumer attitudes are consistently positive, and expectations of industry are high. 8 out of 10 believe it is important or very important for manufacturers to use recycled materials in their products, which means almost 30 million consumers in the five countries. A qualified majority, almost 7 out of 10, believe that products made from recycled materials are of the same quality as products made from virgin materials. This positive attitude is clearly reflected in the survey results:
“A striking number of survey participants are committed to supporting companies' sustainability efforts. In the free-text questions, many took the time to provide tips on product development and product labelling, among other things, to show what they are looking for in sustainable products. This commitment is a great asset for manufacturing companies, which have a lot to gain by taking advantage of customers' ideas and interest," says Malin Baltzar, Sustainability Manager at Stena Recycling Sweden.
The Circular Initiative is initiated by Stena Recycling together with players such as Investor, ABB, Electrolux and Alfa Laval. The Circular Initiative was born out of the conviction that the business community can do more to contribute to the circular society, increase resource efficiency and create more sustainable value chains. It is an initiative that is likely to be appreciated by consumers, as 1 in 3 consumers believe that the main responsibility for driving the trend towards increased use of recycled materials lies with business. At the same time, statistics from the European Commission show that European industries currently use only 12% recycled materials in their production.
“Material use has increasingly become a strategic issue for companies. It is about optimising resource management throughout the supply chain through, for example, design for recycling and optimisation of material flows. Thanks to significant investments, the recycling of materials such as iron and metals has developed significantly and more and more materials can now be recycled. This gives manufacturers access to circular raw materials with the right qualities, which reduces the carbon footprint of products and is key for companies to offer what is demanded in the survey," says Mattias Rapaport, Product Area Manager Non-ferrous in Stena Recycling Sweden.
In spring 2021, 350 company representatives were asked at Stena Recycling's "From waste to circular products" meeting about the use of circular raw materials. In that survey, 16% of companies said they use 50% recycled materials in their products, 36% of companies said they use less than 50% recycled materials and 16% said they do not use any recycled materials at all. However, 4 out of 10 companies declared an ambition to increase the use of recycled materials. A striking number of decision-makers (32%) had no knowledge of whether their products contained recycled materials. Decision-makers were also asked whether they have the necessary expertise to develop circular products. Here, only 25% felt they had the right skills. The ambition is there among companies, but more skills are needed.
8 out of 10 consumers want clear labelling of products made with recycled materials - to guide them in their purchasing decisions. When consumers are asked to list the main barriers to buying products made from recycled materials, lack of clarity comes first. Almost 3 out of 10 respondents indicate that the difficulty in understanding what is actually made from recycled materials is the main barrier. This is something for manufacturers to take seriously when developing products and packaging.
77% of consumers consider it important or very important that products are recyclable. They are also prepared to pay the same (64%) or more (22%) for products that contain recycled materials and can be recycled. Among the respondents, 4 out of 10 even think that it should be forbidden to produce and sell products that cannot be recycled. The durability of products is also highly valued. 8 out of 10 consider it important or very important for the purchase decision that a product is durable, e.g. easy to repair or that parts can be reused.
The survey is characterised by an expectation of business. When asked whose responsibility it is to promote the increased use of recycled materials, 1 in 3 respondents believe that it is the responsibility of business. Failure to meet consumer expectations can be costly. In the past year, 4 out of 10 consumers have opted out of products or brands that they feel do not meet their sustainability values.
The willingness to adapt their consumption to contribute to a reduced climate impact is high in all countries surveyed. 6 out of 10 respondents want to adapt their consumption to a climate-smart lifestyle and more than a fifth of consumers are willing to pay more for products that contain recycled materials and that can be recycled. To meet the high level of interest and expand sustainable supply, efforts are needed in all sectors.
Almost 8 out of 10 consumers consider it important or very important that manufacturers use recycled materials in their products, representing a population of almost 30 million in the five countries surveyed. At the same time, 3 out of 10 believe that the main barrier to buying more products made from recycled materials is a lack of choice. But the demand is there! 7 out of 10 consumers consider it important or very important that there is a good supply of products for a sustainable and climate-smart lifestyle.
We list some of the messages that the survey's 5,000 respondents want to convey to the European business community.
"Stop mixing materials that make recycling difficult!"
"Label products better and be clearer in your marketing"
"Make it easy to find sustainable products"
"We want more sustainable products - and it's your job to give them to us."
"Important to develop sustainable, durable products that reduce overconsumption."
"Make things 100% circular, not just 20% or 50%."
(Free text response, Circular Voice 2022)
Circular Initiative 2022
Stena Recycling invites you for the fourth consecutive year to the international Circular Initiative. Here, representatives from companies such as Electrolux, Alfa Laval, ABB and SEB, will discuss issues of circularity and transformation with experts, researchers and industry colleagues.
Read more about the Circular Initiative and register:
Register here to Circular Initiative 2022
About the survey
The data collection has been carried out in a web panel. The target group is consumers aged 18-65 and older in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Poland. The results are weighted on the demographic variables age and gender per country to obtain nationally representative results. The number of respondents to the survey is 5 091. Responses have been broken down by market, with 1 024 respondents in Sweden, 1 017 in Norway, 1 013 in Denmark, 1 013 in Poland and 1 024 in Finland.
About Stena Recyling
Stena Recycling operates recycling operations at 160 sites in seven European countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Germany and Italy. Every year, six million tonnes of waste are recycled from around 100,000 customers in various sectors of society. Recycled materials are then sold as quality circular raw materials on a global market. Stena Recycling collaborates in circular partnerships with customers on the entire value chain of materials. The company's experts help companies with sustainable solutions that support a circular economy. This includes product design, education and development of optimized process and material flows that support companies' transition to climate neutrality and a circular business model.
Head of Corporate Communications - Stena Metall
+46 705 11 26 70