Parents have been shamed by their own children – for bad recycling practices, according to research.

A poll of 2,000 mums and dads of children aged five to 18 found one in six believe their kids know more about what can be recycled than they do.

And four in 10 have tried to throw something away, only to be caught out by a child who knew better.

A quarter of kids have even pointed out good recycling habits at the supermarket, encouraging parents to take their own bags and buy loose fruit and veg.

The research was conducted by The Midcounties Co-operative, whose ‘1Change’ strategy hopes to reduce the dependence on single-use plastic.

Mike Pickering, Co-operative Social Responsibility Manager at The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “Reducing single-use plastic is a high priority for our 700,000 members, so we wanted to understand whether this desire was making its way to the next generation.

“Our results show, happily, that the mantle is also being passed down, with children showing real engagement in sustainable living – something we see regularly through our work with schools.”

From the survey responses, half of children who go shopping with their parents remind them to bring a ‘bag for life’ rather than using single-use carriers.

Two thirds of parents that responded to the survey confess to throwing something in the main bin because they can’t be bothered to be environmentally friendly.

Recyclable materials that are most often binned by sneaky parents include fruit punnets, batteries and cling film.

A fifth of those that responded to the OnePoll survey won’t clear out a plastic butter container to recycle, and a tenth will attempt to bin an egg box rather than put it in the recycling.

When caught red-handed by their offspring, one in four parents that responded admit to feeling ashamed by their own actions – but a fifth feel proud of their children for their green attitude.

The majority of parents credit their children’s school for educating them on sustainability and recycling.

But three quarters of respondents admit they ‘worry’ about the state of the world they will leave behind for their children, according to the research.

And 63 per cent have made an active effort to cut down on their single-use plastic consumption in the last year.

Eight in 10 respondents also believe retailers have an obligation to do more to educate shoppers about recycling packaging, and single-use plastic.

Mike Pickering added: “It’s up to all of us to make sure we’re doing our best when it comes to our purchasing habits and recycling.

“We are launching 1Change – an initiative aimed at mobilising our 700,000 members and the next generation to make one change to reduce single-use plastic.

“Through 1Change, the Society is working with schools to educate children about the environmental impact of single-use plastic. We’re seeking to engage with 50 schools through our ‘Plastic is not Fantastic’ education programme this year.

“We’re also removing single-use plastic carrier bags across our premium supermarkets by 2020 and, we’re committed to reduce waste through our operations by 20 per cent by 2022, while maintaining our recycling rate of 99 per cent.”


1. Wet wipes
2. Cotton buds
3. Cling film
4. Nappy bags
5. Wine corks
6. Batteries
7. Shoes/trainers
8. Disposable contact lenses
9. Fruit punnets
10. Butter pots
11. Old technology like phones or keyboards
12. Clothing
13. Tin cans
14. Glass jars
15. Milk containers
16. Egg boxes
17. Marmite jars
18. Newspapers
19. Cereal boxes
20. Plastic water bottles


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