The convergence of e-commerce growth and the pandemic response of households has resulted in behavioral shifts regarding packaging waste generation. The spike in corrugated cardboard generation has been well documented, but this update from Republic Services provides further insight into consumer packaging waste in the face of the pandemic.
According to Republic Services, the nation’s second-largest recycler and a leader in the environmental services industry, the pandemic’s effects were clearly seen reflected by the contents of home recycling bins. Data emphasizes consumers are eating and drinking more at home, as well as becoming more Amazon and delivery reliant. The upside? They are, thankfully, says Republic Services, putting these high-demand materials back into the circular economy and becoming more environmentally aware. Here are five takeaways from Republic Services that point to the pandemic’s environmental silver lining:
1. More Than Words – Consumers Acted: The company processed 6 million tons of recyclables and more than 2.15 billion pounds of organic waste in 2020. This aligns with a recent OnePoll survey
· 65% said the pandemic acted as a wake-up call to make sustainable choices
· 41% are working to waste less and conserve more resources
· 30% have committed to being more careful when it comes to sorting recyclables
2. Online Shopping Overtook Bin Space: The USPS reported package volume increased by 19% in 2020. Republic Services has seen as much as a63% increase in residential cardboard in some locations.
3. Dining In: At-home consumption of food and especially beverages drove increases in the following recyclables –
· Aluminum – 17%
· Glass – 13%
· PET (plastic water bottles) – 7%
4. WFH Behavior Shifts: Stay-at-home mandates caused a significant shift from commercial recycling to residential recycling.
5. Compost Generation: In terms of food and yard waste, Republic Services processed more than 2.15 billion pounds of organic waste at their organics facilities in 2020, creating more than 521,522 tons of nutrient-rich compost.
Not mentioned in the report, innovations in the reusable packaging space are poised to help reduce household generation in the years ahead. From e-commerce to take-out to retail refillable, the world is changing, and it needs your help! Watch for continued reports regarding the reuse revolution in this space.