Learn about the attitudes and behaviours around plastics, packaging, instore refill and bring-back recycling. The research has been co-funded by UK Research and Innovation.

Key findings

This survey was undertaken with a total of 4,083 UK adults between 8–21 June 2021.

  • Plastic waste remains a key concern - Two in three UK citizens (67%) say plastic waste is an important issue to them personally, in line with 2018 (71%). 
  • UK citizens don’t think enough is being done on plastic waste - Over half (56%) say the most useful packaging innovation would be making more packaging recyclable, the most cited improvement. 
  • Comparisons over time demonstrate a significant fall in recent years in the proportion of UK citizens who say they recognise three key benefits of food packaging - keeping products safe and hygienic (which has declined from 59% in 2018 to 46% in 2021); keeping the product fresher for longer (43% to 34%) and protecting the product in the home (37% to 27%). There has been an increase in the proportion who cite helps to reduce food waste (from 21% in 2018 to 27%), although this is cited by fewer UK citizens overall when compared to the other benefits just mentioned.
  • While UK citizens have noted innovations in food packaging, this is limited to some/a few products rather than recognition of widespread change. For example, over four in five (82%) have noted packaging that is made from recycled content, but only 29% say they have noticed “a lot” of packaging like this.
  • Recyclability and recycled content feature highly when UK citizens are asked what the most useful changes to packaging would be for them personally.

Some behaviours,  such as re-usable drinks bottles, are relatively common - around two in three (68%) saying they have used one in the past three months. By contrast, many others are at a much lower level – with 19%, for example, reporting using some form of in-store refill (either food, drinks, or laundry/cleaning products). In most cases there is scope for the behaviours to expand and improve the consistency.

Download the full report, summary slides and key findings infographic below.

The UK Plastics Pact

The UK Plastics Pact

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Recycling Locator

Recycling Locator

A tool that provides citizens with locations they can recycle different products and materials.

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  • Plastics Tracker Report 2021.pdf

    PDF, 5.47 MB

  • Plastic Tracker 2021 Infographic.pdf

    PDF, 329.51 KB