Pro Carton: will the younger generation save the environment?

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Almost all Italian youngsters (94%) believe that damage to the environment is one of the biggest crises that we face today. And although COVID-19 continues to be seen as the biggest issue, when it comes to the health of the planet, 51% of 11-21 year olds believe that their parents are not doing enough, while a quarter (24%) think they will be the ones to save it.

These feelings have been reinforced during the pandemic, with over half (59%) of 11-21 year olds across Italy revealing that the pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment – more than any other age group surveyed[1].

Don’t let dad do it
Parents continue to play a key role in household recycling, particularly in the eyes of school children.

When asked who was the best at recycling at home, most (54%) 11-17 year olds chose their mothers, while only a fifth (21%) said their fathers. Despite almost half (47%) of the same age group claiming their parents are not doing enough to save the environment, just 21% believe they are best at recycling at home.

Pressure from younger ages
And youngsters are putting pressure on their elders to do more for the environment. Across Europe, 78% of 11-21 year olds revealing that they nag their parents about being more environmentally friendly. In Italy, young adults (aged 18-21) are particularly forceful about the environment, with 83% nagging their mothers, fathers or carers.

These arguments are unlikely to remain in the home though, with a huge 98% of secondary school-aged children (11-17 year olds) claiming that companies and brands should be doing more to help the environment.

Almost a third (32%) of these ‘next gen shoppers’ believe that recycling more is the best way to stop climate change. In Italy, paper and cardboard is the most recycled form of packaging [2]and can be recycled 25 times or more[3]. Almost three-quarters (73%) revealed they would ban single use plastic immediately, if they could. Interestingly, eating less meat and travelling less were distinctly unpopular choices amongst the whole group of 11-21 year olds, cited by just 6% and 1% respectively as top options to help stop climate change.

Governments take note
In late 2020, the United Nations urged governments to declare “a state of climate emergency” during a virtual Climate Ambition Summit of 75 world leaders. At the same summit, 70 of those countries presented details of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement.
Young respondents believe governments must play a part in safeguarding the environment, ranking their responsibility equally alongside brands and businesses. In response to the question, 98% of respondents overall said governments should be doing a lot or a bit more, to help the environment.

Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton, commented:  “The younger generation have firm views on what the environmental issues are, what needs to be done and who should be doing it. If anything they are more environmentally conscious than their parents’ generation.

“Young people are the next custodians of our planet, which is why we believe it’s important that we listen to their views and act on their concerns. Taking action is not only important for governments, but also businesses, as they seek to ‘recruit’ this young generation of consumers. Using packaging that is truly sustainable is a sensible starting place.  Cartonboard, unlike fossil-based packaging is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. This study highlights that while our respondents understand the responsibility they must take to force change, they also expect companies and brands to do more. We should all take note.”

Pro Carton’s The Future Is In Their Hands report is available to download

[1] The survey was commissioned by Pro Carton and conducted by Perspectus Global, an independent and international research and insight agency

[2] Source: Eurostat

[3] Source: TU Darmstadt