View report

Consumers are calling upon businesses to boost their efforts towards the circular economy and make it easier for them to reduce waste, save money and help improve our environment, a new CommBank report has found.

The rising cost of living, extreme weather events and supply chain disruption has brought waste and consumption into sharper focus for Australians, with 85 per cent of consumers concerned about the issue, according to CommBank’s latest Consumer Insights Report.

Jerry Macey, Commonwealth Bank's Executive Manager, Consumer and Diversified Industries, said in a circular model, the millions of unused products gathering dust in households become a tremendous source of value to consumers and the economy alike.

In a circular economy, existing products and materials are reused and recycled as long as possible through efforts such as sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling.

Rising cost of living stood out as a key concern for more than three in four people, while 21 per cent regarded waste reduction as a significant medium-term challenge.

The report reveals around nine in 10 consumers regularly utilise reusable shopping bags. But some go further, with 53 per cent saying they regularly buy higher quality products that last. Almost one in three say they buy second-hand goods instead of new ones (32 per cent) and choose brands with waste reduction policies (31 per cent).

“Proactive initiatives are a powerful way to create engagement and loyalty with consumers who expect circularity and prefer to shop with businesses that support it,” Mr Macey said.

“People are concerned about the amount of waste and consumption in society, but as more effort, planning and costs are involved, participation begins to decline. Consumers want businesses to make it easier and more convenient to take part,” he said.

The report also found Australian households are sitting on an enormous amount of unused products. In the case of clothing, 38 percent of Australians said they had more than 10 items unused in the past 12 months, equivalent to at least 146 million unused items.

Initiatives that allow donations were the most in-demand (88 per cent), followed by buyback and resale programs (84 per cent) and business-led recycling programs (83 per cent).

About half of consumers also want hospitality venues to donate food to charity, and 36 per cent say they'll pay more to support the cause. Just over 40 per cent want food outlets to use local produce, and one in three say they'll pay higher prices.

Circular Australia Chief Executive Officer Lisa McLean said we could grow local and national economies in a resource and carbon-constrained future through the circular economic framework.

"By decoupling economic growth from the consumption of finite resources, the circular economy provides the sustainable framework we need to build the jobs and industries of the future,” Ms McLean said.

“There are big rewards for those organisations making the circular transition. It's a $2 trillion economic opportunity for Australia."

Consumer Insights Report October 2022


About CommBank Consumer Insights

CommBank Consumer Insights is an exclusive, wide-ranging analysis of the Australian consumer with this edition focused on understanding consumer attitudes and expectations of their experiences in relation to the circular economy. This edition is based on an online quantitative survey conducted by ACA Research on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank. The survey was conducted in July and August 2022 and was completed by 5,633 consumers of goods and services.

Each respondent answered questions from one category within each of the following two questionnaire sections:

  • One of the following categories in which they own one item they don’t use, including: recreational sporting and outdoor goods (n=763), printed books, games, music and media (n=767), motor vehicle parts and accessories (n=750), consumer electronics (n=761), DIY building and garden tools and equipment (n=762), homewares and household appliances (n=764), fashion items (n=769). There were also 297 respondents that didn’t have any unused items in these categories.
  • One of the following categories which they use at least once a year, including: food and beverage services (n=1,395), fast food and quick service restaurants (n=1,395), accommodation (n=1,394) and personal care services (n=1,397). There were also 52 respondents that didn’t use these services.

The sample was selected to ensure the results are nationally representative. All statistics and references to consumers in this report are based on the responses to the survey unless otherwise stated.

Things you should know: The report has been published for general information purposes only. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances, if necessary, seek professional advice. The Bank believes that the information in the report is correct and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available at the time of its compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in the report. Any projections and forecasts are based on a number of assumptions and estimates and are subject to contingencies and uncertainties. Different assumptions and estimates could result in materially different results. All analysis and views of future market conditions are solely those of the Commonwealth Bank.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 234945