Americans Are More Concerned About Plastic in Oceans Than Climate Change

New study finds bans of single-use plastic are breaking through to consumers

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., June 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Americans are more concerned about the impact of plastic waste in our oceans than they are about the impacts of climate change, a new survey finds. The study by Shelton Group examined whether the recent media and corporate spotlight on single-use plastic has broken through in the lives of every-day Americans.

When shown a list of 10 different environmental issues, 65% of Americans expressed feeling very concerned or extremely concerned about plastics in the ocean, compared to 58% who felt very or extremely concerned about climate change. Asked about the environmental issues they hear about the most, from television, newspapers, friends, and social media, respondents reported that discussions about plastic waste polluting our oceans (57%) is now on par with mentions of climate change (59%). Sixty-three percent say they’ve heard some-to-a lot about single-use plastic bans.

Notably, 80% of Americans said if they had the option to buy goods or products that don’t use single-use plastic packaging, they would. Awareness of plastic bans and efforts retailers, brands, and restaurants are making to reduce single-use plastics are both strongly correlated with heightened concern and individual action to reduce plastic use, a strong signal that consumers will increasingly demand plastic-alternatives as awareness of waste grows.

This new data suggests that Americans are more spurred to concern and action over environmental issues that are immediately visible and thus more emotionally affecting, like plastic waste corrupting ocean water and marine life. The impacts of climate change like rising CO2 levels and global temperatures are much more intangible.

“This is a moment of tremendous market opportunity – or significant challenge – for a variety of organizations in the consumer packaged goods, packaging, retailing and food service industries,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group. “It will be increasingly hard for Americans to believe a company cares about sustainability, which is now a driver of brand preference and purchase decisions, when a company continues a ‘business as usual’ approach to single-use plastics. It’s time for everyone in these value chains to get creative and figure out circular, reusable models, as well as material alternatives.”

Check out the full survey results here.

Shelton Group surveyed a total of 1,013 U.S. respondents in March 2019. Stratified sampling mirrors the U.S. population, using quotas for geography, age, gender, education and race; data were weighted slightly to match U.S. population distributions. Margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

About Shelton Group

Shelton Group is a national marketing communications firm focused exclusively on sustainability. Shelton conducts proprietary research on consumer sustainability trends and crafts marketing strategies and campaigns that create a market advantage for organizations seeking to build a sustainable, responsible future. Clients include Environmental Defense Fund, Cotton LEADS, Pactiv, S&D Coffee, and the Vinyl Institute. To learn more about Shelton Group, head to

Contact: Emily Arrowood