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28th July 2010
Recycling in the Recession
In April 2009, an article in the Arizona Republic revealed that with the United States facing the most hard hitting and longest lasting recession in generations, environmental issues ranked low on the list of importance of those questioned. A survey taken in Phoenix found that for the first time in 25 years, Americans would sacrifice environmental protection for economic growth. Furthermore, two thirds of those asked said they cared less about the planet this year than last. This is in comparison to a year before the article was written when, as Earth Day approached, Americans seemed smitten by all things environmental, with the release of Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth, the drive in sales of the energy saving light bulb and the public statement that was the hybrid car.
However, the bill passed in June by the California State assembly to ban single-use plastic carrier bags suggests that despite the pressures of the current economic climate, environmental issues still attract a huge amount of support. Dan Jacobson, Environment California Legislative Director, announced in an email to supporters of the bill that it would not have been passed without a considerable quantity of donations, along with e-mails and phone calls to the Assembly.
So, it seems that those that are in a position to support environmental action continue to do so, perhaps more than ever. But taking the issue closer to home, how does the desire to operate or consume in a greener fashion translate to the average consumer or small business struggling to weather the storm? Is4profit, an organisation providing advice to small businesses, reports that small businesses are cutting back on environmental measures during the recession. According to the article, a survey of 7,000 small firms found that there had been a 75 per cent drop in those with a formal environmental management system in place since 2007. However, a Forum of Private Business spokesman said it was unsurprising that green measures were not a priority in 2009, reasoning that Overwhelmingly, small businesses are concerned about costs. The spokesman added that many businesses view being environmentally friendly as a nice idea, rather than viewing it as a central business practice and one that can actually reduce costs in terms of saving paper and energy bills.
This perception of the costliness of being environmentally friendly is almost certainly reflected in the eyes of the consumer. According to an article by Lets Recycle in June 2003 entitled, Recycling is Still a Middle Class Affair, The National Consumer Council reported that people on lower incomes are being dissuaded from recycling and buying recycled goods, due to perceptions of costliness and lack of availability. The report found that only a third of people on low incomes, particularly those on estates and in high rise flats (33%) have kerbside recycling, compared to an overall average of over 40%, indicating a lack of facilities that are available as standard for people in more affluent areas. The article also echoes the concerns of the Forum of Private Business spokesman, with an emphasis on the perception that recycled goods are more expensive than the non-recycled equivalent; the report found that cost and confusion often override concerns about the environment, along with habit, and convenience. Although this article was written a few years before the recession, it shows clearly how cost, or perceived cost, is an integral part of peoples habits.
Despite the suspicion of the consumer regarding the expense of recycled goods, a 2010 Mintel report shows that demand for recycled food packaging is remarkably high, perhaps because it is assumed that the retailers should absorb any cost incurred by offering recycled or recyclable packaging or by changing their packaging formats in order to use less. According to the report, 23 million consumers place recyclable or biodegradable packaging as the top attribute packaging should have, attaching considerably less importance to appearance, with only 1.2 million considering stylish packaging to be a top attribute. 18.5 million consumers claimed to re-use plastic bottles and containers, with 4.4 million claiming to leave excessive packaging behind at the grocery store, thus the report considered that food packaging design should factor in multi-functional use.
So it seems that people do still care - but are cautious. Since the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, people are perhaps more aware than ever of environmental issues and the action needed to safeguard our future. However, this cannot be at any financial cost and while many businesses are struggling to stay afloat and individuals are at a loss as to how to meet their mortgage demands, people need to be aware of clear steps that can be taken to make changes to their habits in a way that doesnt affect their purses. Recycling facilities are more widely available than when the article in Lets Recycle was written but the balance between those of greater and lesser wealth still needs to be addressed, with recycling and buying recycled goods becoming a habit of not just the middle class but one that is ingrained in the national psyche.
Friday 16th July 2010.
Last night boasted some success for the Tiny Box team as we were awarded Small Business Recycler of the year 2010 at the National Recycling Awards in London! Our award was presented to us by Hugh Dennis (of Mock the Week fame) at a very lavish ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. The award credits us for our recycling methods within the local community.
Pictures of the award to come!!
We currently have a customer who is looking to source a range of new products for her new shop which will sell purely recycled products. If you make or sell recycled products ( jewellery, gifts etc) then please let us know : firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward the information to our customer.
We have another customer who wants plain eco friendly journals / notepads, preferably recycled - no decoration. Please contact Susan directly on email@example.com