By popular demand: what people want from a resource efficient economy

Libby Peake Libby PeakeHead of resource policy020 7630
Embargo: 00:01 Monday 5 November 2018

Survey shows overwhelming public support for government action on shoddy products and unrecyclable packaging

A survey conducted by Cardiff University shows three quarters of people want the government to ensure products are recyclable and repairable and almost 90 per cent want all packaging to be recyclable. [1]
This is further evidence of the public’s increasing concern about waste, just as the government is preparing its first resources and waste strategy in more than a decade. [2]

The survey was conducted by Cardiff University, as part of a project for the Centre for Industrial Materials, Energy and Products (CIEMAP). CIEMAP, a coalition of universities, has published the research with the think tank Green Alliance. [3]

CIEMAP’s research shows that the most popular policies, which lead to better product and packaging design and longer lasting products, are also the ones that cut the most carbon emissions.
Redesigning products to use less material and reducing packaging could cut the emissions associated with commonly used household products by nearly 20 per cent. These savings would rise to nearly 40 per cent if products were also made to last longer and could be shared via schemes like car clubs or London’s Library of Things. [4], [5]

Key survey findings:
  • Nearly 90 per cent of people (87 per cent) believe there is a strong or very strong need to shift to a society that uses resources more efficiently. Only 0.4 per cent believe there is no need at all
  • Two thirds (65 per cent) of people are frustrated by products that do not last
  • Three quarters (75 per cent) believe the government should be responsible for ensuring that businesses produce repairable and recyclable products
  • 89 per cent believe all packaging should be made of recyclable materials
  • 81 per cent believe businesses should be required to provide repair, maintenance or disposal support for their products
Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:
“Becoming a resource efficient economy is a vital part of tackling climate change, as this timely report shows. Ministers must use every tool in the box to reduce the amount of plastic we use, and boost recycling rates.”
Caroline Lucas, MP for the Green Party, said:
“There are no shortage of actions the government could take to improve resource use in our economy. The recent IPCC report makes clear that we need urgent and radical policies if we are to prevent climate breakdown and protect the planet for future generations. The solutions are now clear – and this research shows that the public understands the problem and wants government and business to implement the solutions.”

Ben Goldsmith, Chief Executive Officer of Menhaden Capital and Chair of the Conservative Environment Network, said:
“Ensuring that we use raw materials of all kinds much more efficiently will not only save us a great deal of money, and the environment a great deal of needless damage, but it will also create numerous new green industrial jobs. Resource efficiency is the ultimate win-win-win policy, and this report by Green Alliance shows that people overwhelmingly want the government to grasp the opportunity.”

Professor Nick Pidgeon, who led the team conducting the research, said:
“We were surprised by the level of agreement from the many people we surveyed and talked to in our workshops. It was overwhelmingly clear that people aren’t satisfied and want to see change. They really care about this. They want higher quality products and less waste. Improving resource efficiency is an easy win for both the public and the environment.”

Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said:
“People are frustrated by unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging and shoddy products that don’t last. The government has a clear mandate from the voting public to make sure these become things of the past. If it gets serious about dealing with this in its forthcoming resources strategy, it will not only be hugely popular with the public but also have a new route to tackling climate change.”

Libby Peake, senior policy adviser – resources, Green Alliance (available for interview), 020 7630 4529
Notes for editors

The Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products brings together the four leading UK universities of Bath, Cardiff, Leeds and Nottingham Trent, with expertise in engineering, economics, psychology, design, political science and governance. Funded by the Research Council’s Energy Programme, CIEMAP was one of six centres focused on reducing energy demand in the UK. Its research covers all the opportunities along the product supply chain that deliver a reduction in industrial energy use.

Green Alliance
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank, focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. With a track record of over 35 years, Green Alliance has worked with the most influential leaders from the NGO, business, academic and political communities. Our work generates new thinking and dialogue, and has increased political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK.

[1] The research is published in a new report, By popular demand: what people want from a resource efficient economy. The report will be launched at an event on 5 November, ‘What do people really think about the circular economy?’ It will be chaired by Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the Committee on Climate Change’s Adaptation Sub-Committee. Panellists will include Professor Jim Skea of Imperial College; Janet Gunter, co-founder of the Restart Project; and Greg Lucas, IKEA’s circular & climate positive leader. More information is available at: The report itself can be viewed at:

[2] Defra is preparing a resources and waste strategy, which is expected to be released by the end of the year. This will be the first official waste strategy for England since 2007.

[3] CIEMAP’s research was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It was based a representative public survey of 1,093 people. As part of the same project, the researchers also conducted in depth workshops where members of the public discussed transitioning to a more resource efficient economy. One participant, Vicky, said “It’s bonkers that we’re not doing it” about redesigning packaging to reduce material use and increase its recyclability. Participants thought it was “a good idea” that companies should be made more responsible for producing longer lasting, recyclable products. Workshop participant Carole said: “More companies should do it. It should be law.”

[4] See:

[5] The CIEMAP research calculating the carbon savings associated with resource efficiency measures was originally published by Nature Climate Change in ‘Public acceptance of resource-efficiency strategies to mitigate climate change’. See: 

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