Background
16th June 2022

Almost 9 in 10 UK Adults Don’t Know What the Circular Economy is

Almost 90% of UK adults - the equivalent of 47 million people - say they don’t know what the circular economy is  Of the 13% who know what it is, only 38% have given or received an item through the circular economy in the past year The poll of 2,070 people was carried out by YouGov and commissioned by sustainability platform YoungPlanet  A new survey of over 2,000 people has revealed that 87% of UK adults are unaware of what the circular economy is, showing a lack of understanding around one of the most important consumer behaviours that can help reduce carbon emissions.   The majority of UK adults are yet to discover what the Circular Economy is The circular economy is the practice of sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing or recycling existing products, helping to prevent them from going into landfill and reducing the carbon impact of producing new goods. Experts predict that circular economy strategies that reduce our use of resources can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. But this survey, led by YouGov on behalf of sustainability platform YoungPlanet, showed that the vast majority (87%) of UK adults haven’t heard of the concept or don’t know what it means, highlighting a crucial understanding gap around the term: 68% said they had never heard of the circular economy before 19% of respondents said they had heard of the circular economy but don’t know what it is Only 13% had both heard of the circular economy and know what it is  These statistics highlight an urgent need to increase awareness around what the term means and the impact the circular economy can have in helping UK families reduce their carbon footprint, redirect waste from landfill, and save money.  The results come as a recent report warned that the environmental impact of landfill will stop the UK from reaching its target of becoming net-zero by 2050. UK adults who know about the circular economy but aren’t using it Amongst the small percentage of adults from the UK (13%) who had heard of the circular economy and knew what it is, only 38% had given or received something through it in the last year. 49% confirmed that, despite understanding what the circular economy is, they hadn’t participated in it in the past 12 months. This is in part due to people being unsure how to give or receive items through the circular economy. Over half of UK adults - 52% - said they were not aware of how they could engage with the circular economy, even if they wanted to, despite charity shops, sites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, and a range of apps being available to help people swap or pass on items rather than add them to landfill. Understanding of climate benefits is high The survey results do offer one, more positive sign. When provided with an explanation of what the circular economy is, 73% of UK adults said that they believe the practice would have a positive impact on climate change. Only 1% believed it would lead to a negative impact. This underscores the need to improve education and awareness of how we source new items and get rid of unwanted ones, and what the circular economy means in practice. Regional breakdown: Scotland comes out on top, but Wales lags behind When the data is broken down by region, Scotland came out on top for being the most circular-aware, with 23% of respondents stating that they know what the circular economy is. Northern Ireland came in second with 20%, followed by London at 16%. By contrast, the lowest-scoring regions for understanding what the circular economy is were the North East of England, where only 7% of respondents confirmed they knew about it, and Yorkshire and the Humber, with 9%. Nationally, Wales fared the worst, with 70% of respondents claiming to “never have heard of the circular economy”. This was closely followed by England (69%) Northern Ireland (64%) and Scotland (59%) respectively. Jason Ash, co-founder of YoungPlanet, who commissioned the survey, comments: “These results highlight the urgent need for all of us to participate meaningfully in the circular economy. It’s all about moving to a simpler, more sustainable model of giving items no longer of use to us, to others, instead of sending goods directly or indirectly to landfill. “There’s clearly a huge acknowledgement that this would be good for the planet, as evidenced in the survey results. We now need to break up with our unsustainable habits, amplify awareness of what the circular economy is and how people can quite simply engage with it whilst saving money in order to enable and inspire some meaningful action.”  YoungPlanet is a circular economy app for families. It makes it simple for families to pass on good quality items they no longer need, or to source new things. All with the objective of preventing items from going into landfill. In an effort to highlight just how simple and powerful the circular economy can be, YoungPlanet has launched the CirculaTED campaign. The campaign will see volunteers help pass a teddy bear around Britain to showcase the ease with which pre-loved items can move from family to family. Along the way, he plans to stop at welcoming homes and major landmarks to record his adventures, all trackable via social media, @YoungPlanetApp. Survey and research notes All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2070 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th - 9th June 2022.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Headline stats: 87% of respondents don't know what the circular economy is 68% of respondents have never heard of the circular economy 38% of those who did know about the circular economy contributed to it in the past year (49% did not) 73% of respondents feel that the circular economy would have a positive impact on climate change   Data breakdown   Total Gender Age   Male Female 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+ RCC_Q1. Before taking this survey, were you aware of what the circular economy is?                 Unweighted base 2070 980 1090 171 310 407 319 863 Base: All UK adults 2070 1004 1066 230 306 393 313 829 Yes - I had heard of it before and know what it is 13% 17% 10% 14% 15% 17% 15% 10% Yes - I had heard of it before but don't know what it is 19% 19% 18% 28% 20% 13% 18% 18% No - I have never heard of it before 68% 64% 73% 58% 65% 69% 67% 72% RCC_Q2. You previously mentioned that you are aware of what the circular economy is...Have you given and/or received anything (i.e. goods) through the circular economy in the past year (i.e., since June 2021)?                 Unweighted base 274 169 105 23 46 73 49 83 Base: All UK adults who are aware of what the circular economy is 273 172 102 32 45 69 47 81 Yes - I have given/ received something through the circular economy in the past year 38% 37% 41% 47% 54% 32% 36% 33% No - I have not given/ received something through the circular economy in the past year 49% 51% 45% 44% 37% 53% 49% 54% Don't know/ can't recall 13% 12% 14% 9% 9% 15% 15% 13% RCC_Q3. You mentioned that you haven't given and/or received anything through the circular economy in the past year...Are you aware of how you could give and/or receive items for free through the circular economy?                 Unweighted base 137 89 48 11 18 39 24 45 Base: All UK adults who haven't given and/or received anything through the circular economy in the past year 134 88 46 14 17 36 23 44 Yes - I am aware of how to give/ receive items for free through the circular economy 48% 45% 53% 38% 39% 36% 63% 56% No - I am not aware of how to give/ receive items for free through the circular economy 52% 55% 47% 62% 61% 64% 37% 44% RCC_Q4. A circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing products as long as possible. Now thinking about climate change...To the best of your knowledge, do you think the circular economy has a positive or negative impact on climate change?                 Unweighted base 2070 980 1090 171 310 407 319 863 Base: All UK adults 2070 1004 1066 230 306 393 313 829 Positive impact 73% 68% 79% 65% 77% 74% 75% 73% Neither positive or negative 13% 17% 8% 16% 9% 12% 11% 14% Negative impact 1% 2% 1% 2% 3% 0% 1% 1% Don't know/ can't recall 13% 13% 12% 17% 12% 13% 12% 12% YoungPlanet provides a free, ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes, to toys and baby equipment. The app incentivises a circular system of sharing; prioritising those who have donated more items in the past, so that parents are motivated to become as sustainable as they can be. The app was founded by parents to address the inherent waste, product obsolescence and cost of raising children as well as to help declutter modern homes and keep things out of landfill. YoungPlanet isn’t subject to any inflationary pressure, and the app is available to use in every UK postcode.  YoungPlanet combines transactional functionality with sharing economy principles. Users list unwanted items on the app or look for items they may want or need. In the latter case, they make contact with the ‘giver’ and exchange messages to arrange the exchange either in person, at a drop off location, or via post or courier. Everything is always given and received for free. 

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Almost 9 in 10 UK Adults Don’t Know What the Circular Economy is
  • Almost 90% of UK adults – the equivalent of 47 million people – say they don’t know what the circular economy is 
  • Of the 13% who know what it is, only 38% have given or received an item through the circular economy in the past year
  • The poll of 2,070 people was carried out by YouGov and commissioned by sustainability platform YoungPlanet 

A new survey of over 2,000 people has revealed that 87% of UK adults are unaware of what the circular economy is, showing a lack of understanding around one of the most important consumer behaviours that can help reduce carbon emissions.

 

The majority of UK adults are yet to discover what the Circular Economy is

The circular economy is the practice of sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing or recycling existing products, helping to prevent them from going into landfill and reducing the carbon impact of producing new goods. Experts predict that circular economy strategies that reduce our use of resources can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. But this survey, led by YouGov on behalf of sustainability platform YoungPlanet, showed that the vast majority (87%) of UK adults haven’t heard of the concept or don’t know what it means, highlighting a crucial understanding gap around the term:

  • 68% said they had never heard of the circular economy before
  • 19% of respondents said they had heard of the circular economy but don’t know what it is
  • Only 13% had both heard of the circular economy and know what it is 

These statistics highlight an urgent need to increase awareness around what the term means and the impact the circular economy can have in helping UK families reduce their carbon footprint, redirect waste from landfill, and save money. 

The results come as a recent report warned that the environmental impact of landfill will stop the UK from reaching its target of becoming net-zero by 2050.

 

 

UK adults who know about the circular economy but aren’t using it

Amongst the small percentage of adults from the UK (13%) who had heard of the circular economy and knew what it is, only 38% had given or received something through it in the last year. 49% confirmed that, despite understanding what the circular economy is, they hadn’t participated in it in the past 12 months.

This is in part due to people being unsure how to give or receive items through the circular economy. Over half of UK adults – 52% – said they were not aware of how they could engage with the circular economy, even if they wanted to, despite charity shops, sites like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, and a range of apps being available to help people swap or pass on items rather than add them to landfill.

 

Understanding of climate benefits is high

The survey results do offer one, more positive sign. When provided with an explanation of what the circular economy is, 73% of UK adults said that they believe the practice would have a positive impact on climate change. Only 1% believed it would lead to a negative impact.

This underscores the need to improve education and awareness of how we source new items and get rid of unwanted ones, and what the circular economy means in practice.

 

 

Regional breakdown: Scotland comes out on top, but Wales lags behind

When the data is broken down by region, Scotland came out on top for being the most circular-aware, with 23% of respondents stating that they know what the circular economy is. Northern Ireland came in second with 20%, followed by London at 16%.

By contrast, the lowest-scoring regions for understanding what the circular economy is were the North East of England, where only 7% of respondents confirmed they knew about it, and Yorkshire and the Humber, with 9%.

Nationally, Wales fared the worst, with 70% of respondents claiming to “never have heard of the circular economy”. This was closely followed by England (69%) Northern Ireland (64%) and Scotland (59%) respectively.

 

Jason Ash, co-founder of YoungPlanet, who commissioned the survey, comments:

“These results highlight the urgent need for all of us to participate meaningfully in the circular economy. It’s all about moving to a simpler, more sustainable model of giving items no longer of use to us, to others, instead of sending goods directly or indirectly to landfill.

“There’s clearly a huge acknowledgement that this would be good for the planet, as evidenced in the survey results. We now need to break up with our unsustainable habits, amplify awareness of what the circular economy is and how people can quite simply engage with it whilst saving money in order to enable and inspire some meaningful action.” 

 

YoungPlanet is a circular economy app for families. It makes it simple for families to pass on good quality items they no longer need, or to source new things. All with the objective of preventing items from going into landfill.

In an effort to highlight just how simple and powerful the circular economy can be, YoungPlanet has launched the CirculaTED campaign. The campaign will see volunteers help pass a teddy bear around Britain to showcase the ease with which pre-loved items can move from family to family. Along the way, he plans to stop at welcoming homes and major landmarks to record his adventures, all trackable via social media, @YoungPlanetApp.

Survey and research notes
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2070 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 9th June 2022.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • Headline stats:
  • 87% of respondents don’t know what the circular economy is
  • 68% of respondents have never heard of the circular economy
  • 38% of those who did know about the circular economy contributed to it in the past year (49% did not)
  • 73% of respondents feel that the circular economy would have a positive impact on climate change
 
Data breakdown
 

Total

Gender

Age

 

Male

Female

18-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55+

RCC_Q1. Before taking this survey, were you aware of what the circular economy is?

        

Unweighted base

2070

980

1090

171

310

407

319

863

Base: All UK adults

2070

1004

1066

230

306

393

313

829

Yes – I had heard of it before and know what it is

13%

17%

10%

14%

15%

17%

15%

10%

Yes – I had heard of it before but don’t know what it is

19%

19%

18%

28%

20%

13%

18%

18%

No – I have never heard of it before

68%

64%

73%

58%

65%

69%

67%

72%

RCC_Q2. You previously mentioned that you are aware of what the circular economy is…Have you given and/or received anything (i.e. goods) through the circular economy in the past year (i.e., since June 2021)?

        

Unweighted base

274

169

105

23

46

73

49

83

Base: All UK adults who are aware of what the circular economy is

273

172

102

32

45

69

47

81

Yes – I have given/ received something through the circular economy in the past year

38%

37%

41%

47%

54%

32%

36%

33%

No – I have not given/ received something through the circular economy in the past year

49%

51%

45%

44%

37%

53%

49%

54%

Don’t know/ can’t recall

13%

12%

14%

9%

9%

15%

15%

13%

RCC_Q3. You mentioned that you haven’t given and/or received anything through the circular economy in the past year…Are you aware of how you could give and/or receive items for free through the circular economy?

        

Unweighted base

137

89

48

11

18

39

24

45

Base: All UK adults who haven’t given and/or received anything through the circular economy in the past year

134

88

46

14

17

36

23

44

Yes – I am aware of how to give/ receive items for free through the circular economy

48%

45%

53%

38%

39%

36%

63%

56%

No – I am not aware of how to give/ receive items for free through the circular economy

52%

55%

47%

62%

61%

64%

37%

44%

RCC_Q4. A circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing products as long as possible. Now thinking about climate change…To the best of your knowledge, do you think the circular economy has a positive or negative impact on climate change?

        

Unweighted base

2070

980

1090

171

310

407

319

863

Base: All UK adults

2070

1004

1066

230

306

393

313

829

Positive impact

73%

68%

79%

65%

77%

74%

75%

73%

Neither positive or negative

13%

17%

8%

16%

9%

12%

11%

14%

Negative impact

1%

2%

1%

2%

3%

0%

1%

1%

Don’t know/ can’t recall

13%

13%

12%

17%

12%

13%

12%

12%

  • YoungPlanet provides a free, ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes, to toys and baby equipment. The app incentivises a circular system of sharing; prioritising those who have donated more items in the past, so that parents are motivated to become as sustainable as they can be.
  • The app was founded by parents to address the inherent waste, product obsolescence and cost of raising children as well as to help declutter modern homes and keep things out of landfill. YoungPlanet isn’t subject to any inflationary pressure, and the app is available to use in every UK postcode. 
  • YoungPlanet combines transactional functionality with sharing economy principles. Users list unwanted items on the app or look for items they may want or need. In the latter case, they make contact with the ‘giver’ and exchange messages to arrange the exchange either in person, at a drop off location, or via post or courier. Everything is always given and received for free. 

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