• Over half of Brits (56%) are ‘rubbish recycling relocators’, admitting to knowingly throwing recyclable items in the bin when moving house
  • Gen Z is most clued up on cardboard’s green credentials – but still a quarter think there’s no point in recycling
  • UK recycling guidelines are ‘too complicated’, says a third of respondents (35%)
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) of sustainability-savvy Brits think all councils should have the same recycling rules and six in ten (64%) say this would encourage more people to recycle

Moving house means carefully curated sustainable habits like recycling, go out the window for more than one in three Brits (37%), according to new research by cardboard campaign group Beyond the Box.

According to a new poll of 2,000 adults, more than half of British movers (56%) knowingly bin recyclable and reusable items, with one in four (23%) admitting to dumping at least 30 such items when they last exchanged keys.

What’s more, while the vast majority of us (68%) consider recyclable cardboard boxes an essential part of moving house, and two in three Britons feel ‘worried’ about packaging[i], almost four in 10 (37%) admit that when relocating, recycling was the ‘last thing’ on their mind.

Relocating to a new area can cause confusion over recycling as well. Although nearly 9 in 10 (85%) consider it a priority to find out their local council’s recycling rules, almost 15% of people took more than six months to get to grips with their new area’s guidelines, while 12% admit they’re still clueless.

And, despite their reputation as eco-warriors, younger generations are the biggest culprits, guilty of making some serious eco mistakes when they move house.

While the research revealed younger people are most clued up on sustainability and the benefits of recycling packaging materials like cardboard – more than half (60%) of those aged 18-24 know the paper fibres in cardboard can be recycled up to 7 times, c0mpared to 39% of over 65s – this knowledge isn’t translating into behaviour.

Although understanding new recycling guidelines is a priority for most under 35s (92%), they tend to take much longer to understand the rules; on average, those under 35 take around four months to adapt once they’re in a new home, compared with quick-learning over 55s who take only one and a half months.

Shockingly, one quarter (25%) of 18- 25s admit they can’t be bothered to recycle at all, compared to just 7% of diligent over 45s, and the same percentage (25%) of under 25s think there’s ‘no point’ recycling. Unsurprisingly then, these young adults are also the worst offenders for knowingly throwing recyclable and reusable items away during a move, with nearly 4 in 10 (39%) throwing away at least 30 items.

But according to the Beyond the Box research, the British public aren’t entirely to blame for being ‘rubbish recycling relocators’; a big part of these sustainability slips seems to be the confusing guidelines which people are forced to relearn every time they move.

One-third of respondents (35%) say UK recycling guidelines are ‘too complicated’ and a similar number (32%) find trying to understand their local rules ‘frustrating’, while almost three-quarters of us (72%) believe all councils should implement the same recycling rules.

In fact, if local councils’ guidelines were clearer, six in ten (64%) think more people would recycle.

Most worryingly, 16% of those polled are so confused by their council’s recycling guidelines, it stops them recycling altogether.

However, hope is not entirely lost. The study revealed Brits aren’t shy about demanding change, with almost two in three (64%) confirming they would consider contacting their local council to request a change to local recycling guidelines, with 18-24 year olds – or Gen-Z – the most likely to get involved (75%).

Andy Barnetson, spokesperson for Beyond the Box, comments: “While the majority of Brits are doing an excellent job with recycling, this research shows we need more consistency in the guidelines to make it easier for everyone to recycle, especially when moving to a new area.

“We want to encourage everyone to make recycling is a big priority. This is particularly important at the moment, with cardboard in high demand thanks to an e-commerce and home delivery boom.

“As the paper fibres found in cardboard can be re-used up to seven times, recycling cardboard via your kerb-side recycling collection ensures the cycle keeps moving and makes the most of this versatile material.

“We’re pleased to see that young people are so clued up on cardboard’s sustainable credentials – but we’d really like to see this awareness driving actions.

“With many young people on the move this month, starting university or changing cities to embark on professional careers, we’d urge everyone to prioritise recycling their cardboard boxes, come moving day!”

Dastardly Dumpers

Most likely to throw away over 30 reusable or recyclable items.

1 Wrexham 37.5%
2 Bradford 32.4%
3 London 30.9%
4 Blackpool 30.7%
5 Leicester 30.7%
6 Glasgow 30.0%
7 Oxford 30.0%
8 Bath‎ 28.6%
9 Durham 28.5%
10 Cambridge 28.2%
11 Birmingham 27.9%
12 Warrington 27.3%
13 Chelmsford 27.1%
14 Leeds 26.0%
15 Plymouth 25.6%

Rubbish Recyclers

Top cities for those who can’t be bothered to recycle.

1 Coventry 26.7%
2 Leeds 26.1%
3 Bristol‎ 22.2%
4 Derby 21.9%
5 London 21.9%
6 St Albans 21.7%
7 Newport 20.0%
8 Middlesbrough 19.2%
9 Blackpool 19.2%
10 Cardiff 18.6%
11 Glasgow 18.6%
12 Chelmsford 16.7%
13 Norwich 16.7%
14 Plymouth 16.3%
15 Northampton 15.8%

Driven by Distraction

Most likely to agree that recycling was the last thing on their mind when moving house.

1 Lisburn 57%
2 Newport 53%
3 Walsall 50%
4 Sunderland 50%
5 Chelmsford 48%
6 Leeds 48%
7 Derby 44%
8 St Albans 44%
9 Coventry 43%
10 Bradford 43%
11 Durham 43%
12 Kingston upon Hull 43%
13 Portsmouth 43%
14 Blackpool 42%
15 Gloucester‎ 42%

Simplifying Sustainability

Towns where most agree that all councils should have the same recycling rules.

1 Bristol‎ 88.9%
2 Sunderland 87.5%
3 York 86.4%
4 Lisburn 85.7%
5 Derry 83.3%
6 Southampton 82.9%
7 Warrington 81.8%
8 Sheffield 81.3%
9 Chelmsford 81.3%
10 Nottingham 80.0%
11 Dudley 78.6%
12 Newcastle upon Tyne 78.3%
13 Wolverhampton 78.1%
14 Derby 78.1%
15 Leicester 76.9%

Sustainability Superheroes

Cities where recycling is a priority when moving house.

1 Derry 100.0%
2 Walsall 100.0%
3 Warrington 100.0%
4 Dundee 96.3%
5 Swansea 93.3%
6 Bristol‎ 93.3%
7 Cambridge 92.3%
8 Peterborough 91.7%
9 Leeds 91.3%
10 Nottingham 90.0%
11 Chelmsford 89.6%
12 Northampton 89.5%
13 Newcastle upon Tyne 89.1%
14 Cardiff 88.4%
15 London 87.9%


Notes to Editors

On Air Global Survey: 2,000 respondents, 22nd – 25th July 2021

About Beyond the Box

Bringing together experts from leading UK packaging companies, Beyond the Box, launched by the Confederation of Paper Industries, helps Britons learn more about the nation’s sustainable packaging choice: Cardboard.

Visit Cardboard.org.uk for more information.

For more information, including spokesperson requests, please contact Jessica Hey or Sophie Menzies at Richmond & Towers Communications:

Jessica@rtc.london / 07783 682122

Sophie@rtc.london / 07747 842021