Despite the unquestionably terrible consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it appears there may be at least one silver lining: many Americans say they’re using single-use plastics less often than usual.
In a CivicScience survey of more than 2,400 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, more than 4 in 10 respondents said they had been using single-use plastics (such as soda bottles and food packaging) less often than normal over the past six weeks. Twenty percent said they were using single-use plastics more often, while another 39% said they weren’t sure.
Breaking out those answer groups further, we see that those who say they’ve been using single-use plastics “a lot less” outnumber those who said “a lot more” by more than two to one.
The self-reported drop in Americans’ use of single-use plastics could be at least partly attributable to a decrease in buying overall. Those who said they were spending less money overall due to the coronavirus pandemic (about 1 in 5 U.S. adults) were 46% more likely than the general population to say they are using single-use plastics less. Those who say their spending hasn’t changed (73% of respondents) were more in line with the Gen Pop response on single-use plastics.
But there’s no question that those who were predisposed to make an effort to help the environment in the first place are also more likely to lean into the idea during coronavirus lockdowns. On the other hand, those who say they “never” adjust their lifestyle to help the environment were the only group more likely to be using more single-use plastics over the past six weeks.
Women were 16% more likely than men to be cognizant of their recent use of single-use plastics. Females were also 25% more likely than males to say they were using less of these plastics.
It seems that CivicScience’s ongoing tracking data confirm the hypothesis that Americans are using the coronavirus lockdowns as an opportunity to do more to help the environment. From January to April, the percentage of Americans who say they adjust their lifestyle to help the environment has risen steadily from 31% to 38%. Meanwhile, the proportion of those who say they “never” adjust to help the environment fell from 12% to 8% and the percentage who said they only “occasionally” do so dropped from 26% to 21%.
With many people clearly thinking of the environment as they hunker down in their homes, it’s no wonder that Americans’ use of single-use plastics — which often come from on-the-go purchases, trips to restaurants, and other spending outside the home — has dropped.