Among the early-adopter segment of eco-conscious consumers, The Intelligence Group has observed a new trend called “precycling” and believes it will grow.
Consumers who precycle aren’t just content with throwing cans and bottles in the recycle bin and letting waste management sort it out. With increasing consumer interest in sustainable living, those engaged in precycling aim to avoid products that create more superfluous stuff. This could mean everything from buying bulk in order to avoid excess packaging to reusing everything from water bottles to shopping bags (the latter of which has caught on with retailers and the public at large).
In its May Cassandra Report, The Intelligence Group found that 45% of trendsetters and 14% of mainstream consumers have "cut down on bottled water purchases" in the past six months, while 49% and 16% respectively have "cut down on use of plastic bags" during the same period.
Precycling evolved out of a trend the market research and consulting firm spotted in 2007, which it called “wasted.” This is when it noticed excess was emerging as a dirty word. People were looking for ways to pare down packaging and/or repurpose it, for starters. As examples, think Pom Wonderful’s reusable glassware and Chaco footwear’s program that offers customers a 20% discount when they send in used but clean shoes, which are donated to developing countries.
It is becoming a more popular viewpoint that recycling cans, bottles, paper and such is an antiquated misuse of energy, so precyclers remove themselves from junk mail lists, read paper-based media online and even carry around “precycling kits” consisting of cloth napkins and silverware—anything to reduce waste and not contribute to the recycling bin.
“It’s not just about how you dispose of [products and packaging] anymore,” said Melissa Lavigne, director of marketing for The Intelligence Group, which is a division of CAA. “It’s about being conscious about products you buy in the first place. That’s the idea behind precycling.”
Of course, precycling isn’t replacing recycling completely, especially in its more abstract forms. Consumers are all for donating or reselling their electronic gadgets, for instance, thanks to eBay and other Web resources. Lavigne said, “We asked people how many think of the resale value when they purchase a product, and 49% said they do."