Packaging professionals are always on the hunt for the next big way to appeal to consumers. When it comes to buying products, the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” simply doesn’t apply. Packaging is the first thing a consumer sees, and its design can play a huge part in a purchasing decision. This doesn’t mean, however, that looks are all that matter; environmentally-savvy customers are as equally concerned about the fate of the packaging as they are in its aesthetics. More and more consumers are interested in buying from brands that highlight their commitment to environmental issues. According to Bridgestone Americas and Firestone Complete Auto Care’s 2013 survey, of the over 4,000 Americans surveyed, 86 percent recycled and a whopping 92 percent said that they consider a company’s environmental sustainability when purchasing products.
The question isn’t whether recycling is good for business; the question is how to engage consumers. A number of companies have begun coming up with inventive ways to bring their recycling message to their consumer base, giving incentives to consumers who recycle their packaging. Evergreen Packaging recently wrapped up their Made by Milk carton construction contest, donating up to $5,000 to a school in New York in order to fund art classes that focus on the use of recyclable materials. The winning school created an Alice in Wonderland sculpture by using milk cartons, plastic bags, and soda bottles, among other recyclable materials.
Manna Pro, a company that focuses on animal feed, came up with a list of 10 ways to recycle or upcycle Feed Packaging, available for download on their website. In the past they also ran a Manna Planet Packaging Recycling Contest, inviting participants to send in their ideas for the best ways to recycle or upcycle their feed bags.
Internationally, FedEx Korea held a Packaging Material Recycling Idea Contest to celebrate the release of its Extra Large Pack, asking participants how they could use recycled packaging materials in their everyday lives. Not only did the contest offer a number of different prizes, but it gave FedEx the opportunity to boast that its new XL packages were made of recyclable polyethylene, containing a minimum of 15 percent post-industrial recycled content.
Packaging recycling contests are incredibly versatile and can appeal to a hugely diverse audience because they can be tailored to nearly any consumer base. For instance, Huggies recently partnered with TerraCycle to start diaper packaging recycling contest. The “Diapers for Recyclers” contest offers participants the chance to win ten cases of Huggies diapers every month through December in exchange for their diaper and wipe packaging. Participants get one sweepstakes entry for shipments of packaging weighing at least six pounds, and five entries for shipments weighing at least eight pounds. Each month three winners are chosen to receive the diapers, so there is a strong incentive for consumers to collect and recycle.
Contests like these are great opportunities for brands to connect with socially-conscious consumers. They show that these brands are taking responsibility for their packaging waste, and are taking steps to negate the impact that their packaging may have on the environment. Consumers respond to this not only by recycling their products, but by developing brand loyalty to the companies that strive to make the world a greener place to live. In the end, everyone, including the earth, wins.
Author Tom Szaky, founder/CEO of TerraCycle, has won more than 50 awards for entrepreneurship, also writes blogs for Treehugger and The New York Times, recently published a book called "Revolution in a Bottle" and is the star of a National Geographic Channel special, "Garbage Moguls."