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Boxed Water™ National Survey Reveals Recycling Apathy Among Gen Z/Millennials

As jurisdictional plastic bans roll out across the country, new data emphasizes the need to deal with front-end consumerism of single-use plastic vs. back-end recycling. 

HOLLAND, Mich., Dec. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Boxed Water — the most renewable brand in the water aisle — conducted a deep dive on American consumer perceptions around recycling and the impacts of single-use plastic. In partnership with Researchscape International, 1,016 participants were interviewed from November 3-6, 2023.

The survey revealed surprising generational apathy toward recycling. Although 82% of those polled are "somewhat" or "very" worried about the impact of single-use plastic, just a little over half (58%) actively recycle. The least likely to recycle: Gen Z. Specifically, 67% of Boomers "often" or "always" recycle compared to 44% of Gen Z who "often" or "always" recycle. Continuing the linear trajectory, millennials come in at 50% and Gen Xers are at 59%.

The top cited barriers to recycling rank as follows: 1) Just because it goes in the recycling bin does not mean it gets recycled (43%); 2) Lack of convenience (33%); and 3) Confusion about what can be recycled (28%). (The data were weighted to the U.S. population by nine demographic questions. The credibility interval for questions were answered by all respondents is plus or minus four percentage points.)

"In our interpretation, Gen Z may not be apathetic as much as they are potentially more aware of the declining — and abysmally low — recycling rates in the U.S.," noted Kavita Shah, VP of Marketing at Boxed Water. "This data actually supports the need to significantly reduce consumption — as we are seeing with bold single-use plastic bans in Massachusetts and airports like SFO and LAX."

In September of this year, Massachusetts became the first state to ban purchase of single-use plastic bottles by state agencies. Currently, the City of Irvine, CA., is considering a ban on single-use plastic for local businesses. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was the first airport to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles and bags in 2021 — with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) following SFO's lead this year.

These bans seem to come in response to insurmountable recycling challenges. According to a new Greenpeace USA report, plastic recycling rates are dropping. Only 5%-6% of the plastic consumed in the US in 2021 was recycled. The report also discovered that no plastic — not even beverage bottles, one of the most prolific items thrown into recycling bins — meets the threshold to be called "recyclable" according to standards set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Initiative.

"Simply, we cannot keep up. Recycling plastic in the U.S. has become that Sisyphean task of pushing a rock uphill," added Boxed Water Chief Revenue Officer, Robert Koenen. "US perceptions are actually tracking with the reality of plastic and aluminum recycling."

Important to note, while aluminum and plastic recycling rates continue to decline, carton recycling is on the rise — this year by 7%. As of the start of 2023, 78.6 million U.S. households — approximately 62% of the U.S. — can recycle food and beverage cartons through local recycling programs.

The online survey of 1,016 U.S. adults aged 18 and up was conducted from November 3 to 6, 2023. The data were weighted to the U.S. population by nine demographic questions. The credibility interval for questions were answered by all respondents is plus or minus four percentage points.

Founded in 2009, Boxed Water was the first to offer an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles which are consumed at the rate of 50 billion per year in the U.S. Today, the brand continues to lead the water category with the most renewable packaging compared to plastic and aluminum, as verified by an ISO certified Life Cycle Analysis conducted by Anthesis.

Boxed Water cartons are 92% plant based (including the cap), all sourced from sustainably harvested pines and tree pulp waste. Cartons are filled with (8-step) purified water close to the source out of two purification centers near Grand Rapids, Michigan and Salt Lake City, Utah. This year the brand also achieved CarbonNeutral® Product Certification on their 500mL cartons.

With a philosophy of Boxed Water is Better, Refill is Best, the conscious water brand focuses their distribution in areas where refill may be challenged, hospitality, dining, travel, sporting arenas, entertainment venues, etc. (The carton is refillable/resealable.)

All about the trees, Boxed Water is committed to their reforestation efforts. Part of the 'soul' of the Boxed Water brand is the "You Post, We Plant" social movement. Boxed Water has planted more than 1.4 million trees to support essential reforestation efforts in areas affected by wildfires and other natural threats through their partnership with the National Forest Foundation (NFF). They are also engaged in urban tree planting initiatives with One Tree Planted in the Bay Area, CA; New York City, NY: Inglewood, CA., Boston, MA. and Orlando, Fl.

Boxed Water was founded in the belief that sustainability matters with the purpose of changing the way packaged water is shipped, sold and enjoyed. Boxed Water is the most sustainable brand on the market, at 92% renewable with its plant-based packaging and cap. All of Boxed Water's cartons source paper from trees in well-managed forests – where new trees are continuously planted to replace the ones harvested – and are shipped flat to reduce the number of trucks required for transportation. Boxed Water also fills water close to the source and the consumer to reduce its carbon footprint, and all cartons are 100% recyclable, refillable, and BPA free. Boxed Water is a proud member of 1% For The Planet and partner of the National Forest Foundation, One Tree Planted and Ocean Blue Project. The simple act of choosing Boxed Water is a statement that sustainability matters. Boxed Water is headquartered in Holland, Michigan with filling locations in Michigan and Utah.

Media Contact:
Erinn Lynch


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SOURCE Boxed Water Is Better