Shocking Survey Reveals People Still Use an 18-story Mountain of Plastic Each Year

By Patrisha Antonaros

The average person still uses 140 plastic bags in a year — about the height of an 18-story building, new research reveals. A survey of 2,000 adults asked people to rate their efforts of becoming more sustainable over the past five years. While only 18 percent would give themselves an “A+” for sustainability, others say they’re at least making progress.

The poll finds 77 percent believe they’ve “very much” or “somewhat” improved their earth-friendly efforts. Two-thirds (66%) seek out more products from recycled or plant-based materials, and nearly six in 10 (58%) look for more products that are biodegradable. Additionally, people are ridesharing when possible (49%) and using more tote bags (44%).

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of VEOCEL, the survey also reveals the life events that have inspired people to be more environmentally conscious.

What inspires them the most is watching documentaries (53%), living through the COVID-19 pandemic (50%), reading scientific research (50%), and changes to their health (48%).

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Infographic on the amount of American daily plastic
Among those who work in a remote or hybrid environment, two-thirds (66%) say spending more time at home has made it easy for them to be sustainable. Surprisingly, people said they recycle almost half (47%) of the items that come into their homes.

They’ve also swapped some common items for more earth-friendly alternatives, including opting for reusable clothes instead of paper towels (56%), reusable bottles instead of plastic (53%), tote or recyclable bags instead of plastic (51%), and biodegradable or refillable makeup instead of single-use (46%).

With the holiday season in full-swing, earth-friendly gifts have become a greater priority for those planning to buy gifts this year (82%). That’s largely thanks to having family and friends with increased expectations to receive sustainable presents, according to three in four respondents (77%).

Two in three respondents also say it’s easier to find environmentally friendly gifts in stores. People are making more sustainable choices when it comes to beauty (55%), home goods (54%), pet care (48%), and even their travel arrangements (47%).

“Our research shows consumers not only care more about making more earth-conscious choices when shopping but also find it easier to do so,” says Miray Acar, Head of Marketing Communications & Branding for VEOCEL, in a statement. “When shopping for daily goods, such as make-up remover wipes or facial sheet masks, look for product labels that have earth-friendly fiber ingredients that can biodegrade or compost under certain conditions, and have the EPA Safer Choice designation, meaning every ingredient meets strict safety criteria for both human health and the environment.”

People aren’t always aware of what is and isn’t biodegradable, though. When asked to select items they think will decompose over time, more than half thought glass bottles would do so (54%), while more than two in five say the same for batteries (44%), aluminum foil (42%), and computers (42%).

“Choosing compostable make-up remover wipes is better for you and the environment — and as a bonus, they can also be added to home compost. This turns into soil you can use to feed your garden, plant your favorite seeds and nurture shrubs and trees,” Acar adds.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by VEOCEL between Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

Source: Study Finds

Image: The Conversation

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