Despite Uncertainty Over Recycling, Consumers Aren’t Backing Down

 Just 35% of respondents believe materials actually get recycled, yet report high participation, especially among younger generations

DENTON, Texas--()--While headlines over the past few years might lead you to believe otherwise, the reality is that Americans say they are still recycling at the same rate, despite having little confidence that their recyclables actually get recycled. A national poll conducted by Mason-Dixon on behalf of the Carton Council showed that 85% of respondents report they recycle.

While people say they are still recycling, they aren’t confident in what happens to those materials once they leave the curb. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents are either unsure (21%) of what happens to their materials, or flat out don’t believe (44%) that the materials are being recycled.

The research also reveals that recycling support is highest among younger generations. The largest supporters are ages 18 to 34, with 92% reporting they recycle. As age increases, support decreases slightly with 89% of 35- to 49-year-olds, 87% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 68% of those 65 and older reporting they recycle.

“This is great news as it shows that the vast majority of Millennials and Generation Z are supportive of recycling despite recent negative publicity,” said Carla Fantoni, VP of Communications, Carton Council. “While recycling is currently facing challenges that began with turmoil stemming from the China restrictions and bans, it is a cyclical industry and we are seeing investments in both materials recovery facilities and end markets, working to ensure recycling’s future.”

The Carton Council has been working hard over the past 10 years to not only increase carton recycling access, but also to work with the recycling industry to help facilities and communities get the most out of carton recycling. This includes support and guidance on the best ways to sort food and beverage cartons, brokers to identify end markets, and assistance in educating residents that cartons can be recycled and turned into new products.

“We commissioned this research to better understand the impact, if any, on consumers’ attitudes and behavior surrounding recycling,” said Fantoni. “It is reassuring to see a commitment to recycling, even when consumers are unsure of what happens to the materials. This reinforces that we, as an industry, need to work together to ensure recycling is actually occurring and show consumers what happens to the recyclables after they leave their curbs, removing their skepticism.”


The Carton Council is composed of four leading carton manufacturers, Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Evergreen Packaging and Tetra Pak. Formed in 2009, the Carton Council works to deliver long-term collaborative solutions in order to divert valuable cartons from the landfill. Through a united effort, the Carton Council is committed to building a sustainable infrastructure for carton recycling nationwide and works toward their continual goal of adding access to carton recycling throughout the U.S. For more information, visit


Food and beverage cartons are highly recyclable materials that come in two kinds: refrigerated cartons that store, milk, juice and egg substitutes; and shelf-stable cartons that are packaged for broths, milks, juices, soups and even wine. When sorted by themselves at materials recovery facilities (MRFs), cartons are a valuable material in high demand, even at a time when other recyclable materials are struggling to find end markets where they are processed into new products. They are made mostly from paper, a renewable resource, and have become popular containers for food and beverage products as they are lightweight and compact, with a low carbon footprint. They are used to package things like milk, juice, water, soups, wine and beans. When recycled, they are used to make office and writing paper, tissues, paper towels, and even sustainable building and construction materials. For more information about carton recycling, visit


Sarah Kettenburg
(813) 760-4605

Release Summary

A new national poll showed that 85% of respondents report they recycle despite having little confidence that the materials actually get recycled.


Sarah Kettenburg
(813) 760-4605