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Views on single-use plastic waste vary based on concern about health impacts, survey finds

Public opinion on single-use plastics has decreased in some countries while remaining high in others, according to a GlobeScan survey.

GlobeScan chart: Survey results on concern about single-use plastic waste (by country)

Source: Alana Duval/GlobeScan

On the heels of April meetings in Ottawa, Ontario, to develop a global treaty on plastic pollution, GlobeScan’s global public opinion research shows that the perceived seriousness of waste in the environment from single-use plastics has decreased in some countries while remaining very high in others. 

Based on a largely representative online survey of nearly 30,000 people across 31 countries and territories, Radar draws upon GlobeScan’s unique database of over two decades of polling public opinion about people’s outlook toward societal actors and the issues affecting them. Results show that there is a large difference in concern in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and India — where people tend to continue to rate the issue of single-use plastic waste in the environment as very serious — compared to places such as the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and China, where people are becoming less worried about the issue. Just over one-third of Chinese respondents believe single-use plastic waste is a very serious issue compared to almost three-quarters of people in Mexico and Brazil.

What does this mean?

The decrease in concern about single-use plastic waste in the environment over the past few years in several countries is likely associated with people recognizing that the plastic reduction agenda is moving in the right direction, with single-use plastics bans increasingly coming into effect in many places — often affecting people’s daily lives (bans on plastic straws and plastic bags in supermarkets). Nevertheless, concern with single-use plastic waste also remains very high in many countries, especially across Latin America where people are also the most likely to claim that plastic waste is negatively affecting their own health as shown in last week’s Insight of the Week. Regulatory pressures around plastics are likely to continue as people increasingly associate plastic waste with issues regarding their own health and well-being and that of their families.

Survey Question: For each of the following possible global problems, please indicate if you see it as a very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious, or not at all serious problem: Single-use plastic waste in the environment

Source: GlobeScan Radar Trends Report (survey of 29,565 people in the general public across 31 countries and territories in July‒August 2023)

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