Society Insights

A plastic-free future?

The trend

The air and the sea, the most global elements there are. The plastic bottle that winds up in the Gulf of Mexico can easily reach any coastal country, even one where there’s a ban on the use of plastic containers. Or worse, that same bottle can end up in the belly of marine mammals that populate the oceans, endangering biodiversity to the detriment of the entire planet - even those countries with severe restrictions on the use of plastic. So it’s a global problem, and no national initiative can solve it.  Decisions must be made on an international level to establish the highest possible standardization of regulations that apply to all countries:  it’s the only way to effectively bring pollution into check.  

To explore attitudes on this issue, Ipsos conducted a survey in 28 countries. Findings show that according to nearly 90% of public opinion, only by introducing an internationally binding treaty can plastic pollution be curbed.  

Limiting plastic in single-use products and packaging would guarantee lower levels of pollution because fewer plastics would be in circulation. But this wouldn’t be the solution to the problem, it would only contain it. The war on plastic has already been declared by the EU, which in recent years has opted to do battle by approving a series of bans for member states, for example prohibiting single-use cutlery and many other single-use products. And this war also seems to have won over consumer awareness. Case in point: in all the countries surveyed, an average of 82% of respondents say they want to buy products with less plastic in the packaging. What’s more, 80% believe that manufacturers and retailers should be proactive in reducing, reusing and recycling plastic packaging. 

Key takeaways

In the study’s 28-country panel, Italy emerges as being particularly sensitive to the question of reducing plastic, recording percentages above both EU countries and the overall average: 94% of Italians surveyed think that a treaty to combat plastic pollution is essential (the average is 88%); 86% say they want to buy products with less plastic packaging (average 82%); 89% assert that manufacturers and retailers are responsible to some extent for reducing, reusing and recycling plastic (average 85%). 

In Japan (which ranks last) 54% of interviewees are against banning single-use plastic, while in Colombia, Chile and Mexico (first, second and third, respectively) around 89% are in favor. In general, countries in Latin America show the most consensus on the importance of an international treaty (93%) and think that manufacturers and retailers should take additional steps to limit the use of plastic (89%). 

In contrast, North American countries such as the US and Canada are among the least virtuous in terms of seeing the importance of an international treaty. The same is true as far as attitudes about banning single-use plastics, with respectively 34% and 24% of interviewees opposed to such an initiative. 

A plastic-free future?