The future of plastics? – Swedish public opinion on plastics policies

The future of plastics? – Swedish public opinion on plastics policies

This report is the result of a cumulative work on behaviour, attitudes, and practices in connection to plastics conducted between 2019 and 2021. In the report, the authors examines the Swedish public’s opinions on plastic policies using panel survey data. The data was collected and administered by the Laboratory of Opinion Research, affiliated with the SOM institute, at the University of Gothenburg. The fieldwork was carried out February and March, 2021.

The survey consists of 13 questions and covers five main areas of opinion on plastics: general attitudes towards plastic and views on various actors’ responsibility in connection to plastic; opinions on the newly implemented plastic bag tax; attitudes toward future current and future plastic policy proposals; opinions on textile-related policy proposals; and evaluation of effectiveness of policy instruments to regulate plastic (packaging).

Based on the results, the main takeaways for policymakers are:

– Do not be afraid to regulate plastics – there is generally broad support for addressing the challenges that arise with the use of this material.

– Practise incrementalism and learn from best practice examples – begin with soft policies with very high support, but do also communicate a vision of more sustainable plastic use in the near future.

– There is clear support for an expansion of the deposit-refund scheme. The deposit-refund principle is promising as it indirectly preserves the value of the packaging after its use – Hence an expansion of the scheme could be an effective step forward.

– Swedes support a tariff on imported fossil-based plastic – the inclusion of petrochemical products in CBAM would likely have the public’s support.

– Ultimately, plastic use is connected to a larger problem with unsustainable consumption practices – efforts to shift consumer habits toward reuse, borrowing and lending consumer items, sharing, and, in some instances, reducing consumption should with time be embraced. Narratives about the future sustainable material use could play an important part in this shift.

Read the report
The future of plastics?
– Swedish public opinion on plastics policies