Results of surveys uncovering ways to engage consumers in the circular economy

31 January, 2020

Between July and October 2019, Make Mothers Matter conducted three consumer surveys covering the following topics:

  • Reuse and Recycling attitudes

  • The eco-points system (rewarding scheme for consumers adopting sustainable behaviours)

  • Sustainable lighting products

 

The  aim was to :

  • Uncover ways of engaging consumers in CE​ (circular economy)

  • Feed the development of business models and demonstrations​

  • Provide policy-relevant insights in the transition from linear to circular economy​

Profile of respondents

 

Concerning the profile of the respondents, for all three surveys, it must be noted that a very large portion of our respondents (more than 75%) have levels of education equal to or above university education.

 

793 respondents participated in the Reuse and Recycling survey with a higher proportion living in Spain (24%), Belgium (19%), Sweden (14%), the UK (14%).

 

184 respondents participated in eco-points survey with a higher proportion from Sweden (28%), Germany (22%), Belgium (17%) and Spain (15%).

 

178 respondents participated in the sustainable lighting product survey with a higher proportion of them residing in Belgium (30%), Poland (16%) and Spain (14%).

 

The analysis of the results was divided between four core domains influencing consumers’ behaviours: incentives, drivers, barriers and purchasing factors.

Incentives

 

Regarding incentives, 53% of respondents declared that they do not need to receive an incentive in order to collect bio-waste separately and declared they would collect it anyway. This was followed by a reduction of local garbage fees (15%).

Surprisingly, financial incentives were never the main driver to motivate consumers to bring their EEE back for collection and recycling. It has to be considered that survey respondents come from a higher socio-economic background and this maybe a less important factor for them. However, this is a paradox as respondents answered in other questions that price was one of the most important elements when purchasing food products and second-hand EEE. 

 

Indeed, easily accessible collection points is what would make most respondents give their electronic device back for collection or recycling. This was followed by information on how the device will be treated and its destination.

 

Concerning lamps, 83% of respondents declared to be “willing” or “very willing” to buy a more expensive but sustainable lighting product if they received an incentive in return.

 

When asked which type of incentive they would prefer, 26% of respondents chose direct monetary incentives followed closely by “I don’t need incentives” (19%). It is worth highlighting that if you combine the 3 proposed economic incentives in the survey (tax reduction, discount on sustainable products and direct monetary incentives), 56% of respondents chose these options.

 

Regarding the eco-points survey, 51% of respondents stated that the incentive that would encourage them the most to use this system would be a discount on sustainable products. However, 27% of respondents stated they do not need incentives and would buy sustainable products anyway.

Drivers

 

Convenience is the main driver motivating consumers to recycle EEE, followed by providing valuable information to consumers. Therefore, it is crucial that the eco-points system provides this information to empower end-users in the purchasing or reuse/ recycling behaviour.

 

Regarding food, 68% of respondents agreed they would be willing to separate bio-waste and bring it to a container if a system was put in place in their area. Regarding EEE, easily accessible collection points is the criteria which motivates consumers the most to bring back their EEE for recycling (71%).

 

With regards to eco-points having detailed information is very important to end-users. Indeed, 66% of respondents declared they would want to receive “very detailed” or “detailed” information about the way eco-points are calculated.

 

Despite the current trend in new lamps integrating bulbs and tubes, 81% respondents find that replacing the lightbulb in a lamp is extremely important or very important.

Barriers

 

Respondents highlighted that the main obstacle to reduce their food waste is the lack of meal planning followed by the size of packaging. As found in a survey previously conducted by MMM[1], families demand more time to care for their children. In the reuse and recycling attitudes survey, it can be argued that lack of meal planning is a consequence of the lack of time.

Also, what came up very often in the comments was that the lack of time to sort out or bring EEE to recycling points as an obstacle to reuse or recycle. Therefore, an interesting parallel can be drawn between the lack of time to care for the family and the lack of time to care for the environment. It is very important that in order to engage end-users in the circular economy, proposed solutions have to consider the economic impact on and the required investment in time and particularly for women.

Another barrier that respondents face regarding food waste is that there is not always a system in place in their area to collect bio-waste separately (30%).     

39% of respondents declared having already repaired an EEE. The main reason for which respondents did not buy a second-hand electronic equipment is because they do not trust the quality/warranty of refurbished EEE. Programmed obsolescence was also raised as a barrier to transition to a circular economy and respondents suggested to force companies to assume the responsibility to repair and collect their devices.

 

Regarding eco-points, the complexity of the system and of the description presented in the survey is a major barrier to the use of eco-points by end-users.

 

With regards to lamps, 67% of respondents were “not interested at all” or not “interested” in a leasing service paying a monthly fee which includes the maintenance (light bulb replacement, repairs etc).

 

Purchasing factors

 

Respondents considered the following factors to be the most important when buying food products: price, seasonal products, type of packaging and use of chemicals.

 

When purchasing EEE, respondents always considered the following components being of the utmost importance: the durability of the device, the durability of the battery, the presence of toxic components and the easiness to repair.

 

With regards to eco-points, food is the product for which respondents found eco-points the most useful. This was followed by smartphones and lamps.

 

With regards to the most important factors they consider when buying a lamp, product quality comes among the first three in all survey versions (70% of all responses) followed by reparability (49% of all responses) and price (48% of all responses).

 

For more information about the survey results, the detailed report will be published on the project’s website once reviewed by the EU Commission.

[1] MMM Survey conducted in 16 countries and 10 languages with close to 12000 responses about what matters to mothers in Europe in 2011 found out that mothers demand more time with their families and asked for measures to improve this. Available at: https://makemothersmatter.org/delegations/europe/what-matters-to-mothers-ineurope/

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 776503. The views and opinions expressed in this website are purely those of the writers and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.