The role of labels in directing consumer packaging waste

  • Buelow S
  • Lewis H
  • Sonneveld K
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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which consumers in Melbourne understand recycling information on packaging labels and their resulting recycling behaviour. Design/methodology/approach – Mixed research methods were used in the study (qualitative and quantitative approaches) in the form of randomly distributed surveys and structured face-to-face interviews. Both methods were administered with consumers from three demographically different areas in the metropolitan Melbourne (Australia) region. The software program SPSS was used to analyze some of the results. Findings – The research shows that despite good intentions, consumers’ understanding of packaging materials and labelling for common products, and therefore resulting sorting behaviour, is often very poor. The confusion surrounding current labelling and recycling schemes can be attributed to incorrect labelling and system complexity combined with a lack of consumer understanding and care. Practical implications – Correct sorting of recyclable and non-recyclable packaging means materials finish in the correct waste stream and recyclable materials have the opportunity to be reprocessed and eventually reused, saving raw materials as well as reducing other environmental impacts. If consumers do not correctly sort materials, recyclable packaging will go to landfill and non-recyclable materials will contaminate the recycling stream. Social implications – The results of the research, when completed, could be used to design more effective labelling schemes for packaging to inform consumers about its recyclability. The social benefits potentially include increased diversion of recyclable materials from the waste stream and reduced costs of both recycling and waste disposal. Originality/value – There has been very little research undertaken on the role and adequacy of labelling in driving consumer-recycling behaviour, and therefore this paper fills that gap. The results in the paper may be used to further enhance environmental package labelling through policy development or commercial applications. Keywords

Author-supplied keywords

  • Australia
  • Consumers
  • Labelling
  • Packaging
  • Recycling
  • Waste

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Authors

  • Sarah Buelow

  • Helen Lewis

  • Kees Sonneveld

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