Environment, shmirement! Eco-friendly people flocking back to single-use plastics during COVID

NEW YORK — Eco-friendly individuals may love to “reuse and recycle,” but that apparently goes out the window during a pandemic. Almost seven in ten Americans say they’re buying more single-use items than they did last year in order to minimize their risk of COVID-19 exposure.

According to a survey of 2,000 people, 97 percent have access to refillable or reusable products. Despite this, the pandemic panic has 67 percent of them turning to single-use plastics instead. Overall, nearly a third (32%) say COVID-19 has had a major impact on their overall environmental practices. One in five (21%) say that their habits have “completely changed” during the crisis.

For example, 38 percent are consuming more plastic water bottles than they did at this time last year. This is despite 50 percent admitting they currently own a refillable container. Out of the 90 percent whose sustainability efforts have been affected, half feel that it’s ultimately been a negative impact.

Commissioned by Hydro Flask and conducted by OnePoll, the survey also finds that 40 percent report being more ecologically-minded now than they were in 2020.

Climate change is still a major concern

Pandemic SustainabilityThree in four people are still “deeply, actively concerned” about the current state of the environment. These Americans cite climate change (57%), pollution (46%), and deforestation (44%) as their top concerns. Seventy-one percent also believe it might be possible to reverse or minimize the effects of climate change, so long as everyone pitches in to do the bare minimum of harm.

In the meantime, 46 percent of consumers have begun to reach for products sold in more sustainable packaging. This includes dry goods that come in biodegradable cardboard rather than plastic bags.

Forty-two percent are even curious about completely container-free alternatives, such as a solid bar of soap instead of body wash. Unfortunately, the majority (60%) still prefer refillable liquid products to solid or water-activated ones. Almost half the poll (49%) say that they consider the reusability of a product before they purchase it. Another 38 percent think about whether or not it’s biodegradable.

“The findings of this survey are important as they show that we still have a long way to go to cut loose single-use bottles and containers from our daily lives,” says Phyllis Grove, VP Marketing & e-Commerce at Hydro Flask in a statement.

“Replacing plastic with reusable water bottles is one of the easiest swaps we can make to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in our environment. Studies show that if just one person makes the switch, approximately 217 plastic water bottles will be saved from going to a landfill that year – which is why we’re encouraging people everywhere to choose reusable alternatives and ‘Refill for Good.’”

Space issues over eco-friendliness?

Pandemic SustainabilitySo far, it seems like Americans will find the most successful sustainability efforts at the grocery store. Twenty-nine percent of survey-takers report using fewer plastic grocery bags while shopping and 25 percent are using fewer produce bags.

Similarly, four in 10 have their own reusable produce bags in their home and 36 percent have reusable shopping bags. While sanitation is still a concern for 40 percent of those owning reusable items, it’s not the top concern. Rather, more respondents (44%) worry about the amount of space that reusable items take up in their home.

“We’re thrilled to see that reusable water bottles are the most popular sustainable product cited in this poll,” Grove adds. “For many of us, a reusable bottle has become one of the daily essentials we grab on our way out the door along with our phone, keys and wallet. We know that hydration is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and by choosing a sustainable alternative to plastics, we are refilling not only for the good of our bodies and mind but also for the good of the planet.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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