Brits are spending 54 hours a year trying to recycle

  • The recycling symbol Brits are most familiar with is the Mobius Loop, with 78% of respondents knowing what it means
  • The sign Brits struggle to recognise the most is the Aluminium symbol at 12%
  • On average, if Brits were to look up recycling symbols and their correct meaning and instruction every time they needed to, they would spend 54.4 hours a year doing so

It has been three years since Sir David Attenborough generated a global surge of interest in plastic pollution and recycling following the powerful series Blue Planet II, which highlighted the serious harm humans are putting marine ecosystems through - referred to now as the ‘Attenborough effect’.

Since then, there has been a number of hard-hitting documentaries calling for us to take more responsibility for our planet and environment, including Sir David Attenborough’s newest Netflix instalment A Life On Our Planet and Prince William: A Planet for Us All.

Although plastic pollution across the world has since plummeted, there is no denying the guidance surrounding what can be recycled and what can’t is somewhat confusing, especially as there are several recycling symbols to understand.

This inspired the energy experts at SaveOnEnergy.com/uk/ to test how many Brits know from first glance what each recycling symbol means.

To do this, SaveOnEnergy surveyed 2,300 people up and down the country - to elevate the results, SaveOnEnergy decided to investigate just how long we spend finding out what each symbol means. *

THE RESULTS

Recycling Symbol Understanding

The symbols Brits struggle to identify the most and do not have a strong understanding of include the Aluminium symbol with only 12% recognising, followed by the Financial Contribution symbol at 17% and the Plastics and Forest Certified symbols, both at 21%.

Signs that Brits aren’t as familiar with include the Widely Recycled symbol with 32% recognising, the Compostable symbol (37%), and the Check Locally symbol, with 51%.

The recycling symbols that Brits are most familiar with include the Tidyman symbol, with 76% of respondents knowing what it means and the Mobius Loop, with 78% also correctly identifying.

Time Wasted Statistics

SaveOnEnergy found from the study that on average, Brits can spend up to 14.2 hours a year searching for a recycling symbol and its meaning, before deciding to give up.

Brits can spend up to 35.7 hours a year on average, searching for recycling symbols and their meaning, but not understanding the instructions and therefore giving up again.

If Brits were to look up recycling symbols and understand their correct meaning every time, they would spend on average 54.4 hours a year doing so.

SaveOnEnergy’s eco-friendly expert, Linda Dodge, adds: “It’s really fantastic how far we have come to help save the animals and our environment by minimalising the amount of plastic we use and waste. Although there is still a long way to go, symbols are put on items so consumers know what to do with them.

However, it seems they may be adding to the confusion - with this study showing more than half of Brits don’t know what most of the signs stand for. It would suggest we need to teach these symbols more widely in schools and workplaces for us all to live in a better and sustainable planet.”

For the correct meanings and recycling instructions for each symbol, please see the full blog post here.

Methodology

1. SaveOnEnergy averaged a ‘big shop’ every 2.5 weeks, with 60 items brought per shop, which worked out at 20.8 ‘big shops’ a year.
2. SaveOnEnergy then timed a number of participants to find out how long it would take them to:

a) Look for the symbol and Google what the symbol meant, before giving up (average of 41 seconds).
b) Look for the symbol, Google what the sign meant, but not find the answer, before giving up again (average of 1 minute, 43 seconds).
c) Look for the symbol, Google what it means and keep searching until they find the correct method of recycling (average of 2 minutes, 37 seconds).

3. SaveOnEnergy then used this to work out how much time was spent looking per item, per ‘big shop’.

SaveOnEnergy