UK children blame parents for bad recycling habits

Children in the UK are driving recycling behaviour in families rather than their parents, a survey commissioned by the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA) has discovered.

A poll of 2,000 parents of school-aged children by OnePoll found that 41 per cent believed it is really their children who drive recycling and sustainability attitudes at home.

Around 43 per cent have faced a telling off from their offspring for not making more effort with the recycling – an average of three times a week.

Of those told off, 56 per cent have been reprimanded for throwing something like a can in the waste bin instead of recycling it, while 40 per cent have had arguments about buying items in non-recyclable packaging. Another 35 per cent have been reprimanded by youngsters for not washing out cans or jars properly before putting them out with the recycling.

But the study also found more than a third of parents admitted their children know more about the environment and recycling than they do. And 70 per cent blamed their own confusion about what can and can’t be recycled for their fall outs with their children.

“Recycling has come on in leaps and bounds even in the last few years – things that weren’t able to be recycled by councils are now much more widely re-usable,” said Robert Fell, chief executive of the MPMA. “Because of this, children now learn about how to be green at school, and figures like Greta Thunberg proving popular, many youngsters know more about recycling than their parents.

“It’s great to see that so many parents are being picked up on things they may not be doing correctly when it comes to recycling – even if it is by their children.

“Children are very enthusiastic about the environment and it could be an opportunity for people to learn more about what they can be doing more of to improve their recycling – even if it’s as simple as remembering to recycle a can instead of just throwing it away.”

The survey discovered that confusion about the recyclability of different metal containers was widespread. Despite 90 per cent of people understanding that tinplate cans can be recycled, more than a fifth had no idea that you can recycle metal paint cans. As a result, while 10 per cent admitted to being more likely to throw a can into the waste bin than recycling it, 24 per cent would do the same with paint cans.

Almost half of those polled even admitted they sometimes throw recyclable items out with the rubbish because it is easier than trying to work out whether it can be recycled. And 46 per cent have binned a food can because they couldn’t be bothered to wash it out, even though 40 per cent are aware that this isn’t essential to the recycling process.

Fell added: “Even now, there’s a lot of confusion among consumers about what counts as recyclable waste. Things like cans of paint, old technology like phones and keyboards, and even trays from fruit punnets leave millions in a flap.

“This is why it’s so important that the younger generation keeps up their interest in helping save the planet – beginning with their own homes.”