Consumers want non-plastic packaging options

By Lisa McTigue Pierce in Sustainable Packaging on November 14, 2019

As the anti-plastics movement steamrolls across the globe, many consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) are shying away from plastic packaging. Are they leading or following consumers? Exclusive research reveals that consumers expect brand owners to voluntarily replace single-use plastic packaging with non-plastic alternatives.

But will consumers still want non-plastic packaging options once they learn more about packaging sustainability? That may be the burning question brand marketers need to answer as they set packaging sustainability goals.

Download your free copy of the 2019 Packaging Digest Consumer Survey on Plastic Packaging Sustainability report below. Packaging Digest conducted the research in partnership with consumer insights leader Toluna.

Key insights include:

• American consumers are deeply concerned about the impact of single-use plastic packaging on the environment. Almost a third (31%) of respondents say their concern about the eco impact of plastic packaging is as high as it can possibly be. And, on the scale of 0 to 10, 61% of consumers checked 8, 9 or 10. This implies they are hyper aware of the current climate surrounding plastic packaging.

• Two thirds of respondents say the situation with disposable plastic packaging is the worst it’s ever been, but consumers also don’t think it has peaked yet: 82% say it will continue to escalate.

• A whopping 89% of survey respondents have faith that recycling can have a positive impact on marine debris.

• Consumers are not as aware as industry professionals as to the struggling state of recycling in the U.S., ranking “Low recycling rates” second to last in a list of environmental concerns. Respondents to our industry study rank that second from the top. A slightly higher percentage of consumers say recycling in the U.S. is healthy than say it’s not: 45% chose “Vibrant and Strong” or “Moderately Healthy” versus 39% who say “Struggling” or “Poor.”

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• Demand driven? Brand owners might say they use plastic packaging because that’s what consumers buy/want (perhaps for convenience or on-the-go consumption). But consumers don’t see the plastic packaging waste problem as much their fault, perhaps because they aren’t given a choice to buy products in a different package.

• 60% of consumer-respondents want non-plastic packaging options. But if brands do use plastic packaging, they should at least make sure it is recyclable, or made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content or bioplastics.

• Overall, less than a third say they support bans, but Millennials have more faith in government intervention as a solution than other age groups. And people in the U.S. West see regulations as more effective than their fellow citizens, especially those in the landlocked Midwest.

• Despite how they might feel about bans personally, 85% of respondents say we might or will see more regulations against plastic packaging.

• 83% of respondents believe non-plastic packaging is more eco-friendly.

• The silver lining: Consumers are clearly willing to act in (mostly) positive ways. More than a third say they are learning more about plastic packaging sustainability.

This sweeping 52-page consumer survey is companion research to Packaging Digest’s 2018 Sustainable Packaging Study—also free to download—that polled packaging professionals on many of the same questions about the sustainability of plastic packaging. An entire section of this consumer report analyzes the discrepancies between what consumers and packaging professionals think about this critical concern.

Download your free copy of the 2019 Packaging Digest Consumer Survey on Plastic Packaging Sustainability report now!

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