21 June 2021. 2020 saw dramatic changes to the way society lives. How people work and socialise might have changed forever. Consumption habits have also changed, which has had major impacts on the packaging industry. In a year when some industries struggled, the packaging industry reported increased volumes and revenue, in part, due to a surge in online shopping.
But consumers are conscious of their impact on the environment and are demanding more sustainable packaging choices to be used. A recent survey shows that UK consumers believe paper-based packaging to be better for the environment and is the preferred packaging choice for many.
The study, commissioned by not-for-profit organisation Two Sides and conducted by independent research company Toluna, aims to understand changing consumer perceptions towards print, paper and paper-based packaging.
Paper – The Preferred and Sustainable Packaging Choice
Non-recyclable, single-use packaging has been brought sharply into focus over the past few years, rising pollution and its impact on animals and habitats has been widely publicised. A 2020 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates the current amount of plastic reaching the oceans is 11 million tonnes a year. This is driving consumers to look for ways to reduce waste and create a sustainable, circular economy. Research shows that paper packaging is the preferred sustainable option for many.
In the study, consumers were asked to choose their preferred packaging material based on a range of environmental, visual and physical attributes. These packaging materials were paper/cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. The study revealed that paper/cardboard was the favoured packaging choice for 10 out of 15 attributes. 55% of UK consumers preferring paper packaging as better for the environment, 51% for being easier to recycle and 77% for being home compostable.
Consumers are right to believe that paper is easier to recycle. In Europe, 84% of paper packaging is recycled, making it the most recycled packaging material in the world. Glass has a recycling rate of 74%, metal 80% and plastic 42%. (Eurostat, 2019)
The study showed that consumers are demanding that brands, retailers and supermarkets do more to reduce the use of non-recyclable packaging. The study revealed that 32% of UK consumers believe that brands, retailers and supermarkets are the most responsible for reducing the use of non-recyclable packaging. Furthermore, 46% of UK consumers believe retailers, supermarkets and brands are not doing enough to introduce more sustainable packaging in their stores. That being said, consumers also hold themselves responsible, with 29% of UK consumers believing “the individual (your own choice)” has the most responsibility to reduce the use of non-recyclable packaging.
The Rise In Online Shopping – Positive News For Paper Packaging
At the touch of a screen, consumers can search for a product, order, and have it safely delivered to your door within 24 hours. But consumers are aware of the impacts packaging has on our planet, and they are increasingly demanding that retailers do more to ensure their packaging is recyclable.
The survey discovered that UK consumers are willing to act if they don’t think a retailer is doing enough to become more sustainable. 42% of UK consumers would consider avoiding a retailer if they were not trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging, higher if the consumer is a millennial (51%). A further 52% of UK consumers would actively buy more from retailers who are removing plastic from their packaging.
When ordering products online, 67% of UK consumers prefer those products to be delivered in appropriately sized packaging showing a desire to reduce unnecessary waste. A further 54% of UK consumers prefer products to be delivered in paper packaging, likely because of its highly recyclable qualities The older generation (65+ years old) has a higher preference for the products they order online to be delivered in paper packaging (64%).