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Consumers are finally having their say on plastic waste

Consumers want more.

As consumers begin to say their piece on single-use plastic, it came to everyone's attention that consumers want plastic gone. Plastic packaging is used for everyday products – from food and drinks to personal care items – which is a large part of the problem. And opinions are changing. People are starting to take a stand against the amount of plastic used on the products they buy, especially if they aren't essential, and with 70% of consumers actively looking to adjust their purchases, its time to act. And fast.

According to a recent study (Nguyen, Parker, Brennan, and Lockrey, 2020), the results indicate that consumers believe eco-friendly packaging can be categorised along three key dimensions: packaging materials, manufacturing technology, and market appeal. Although consumers have a diverse opinion on the packaging, their knowledge is limited and more related to packaging materials (such as if a product is biodegradable or recyclable), and market appeal (such as attractive packaging and is reasonably priced).

With plastic packaging, consumers are aware of a preconscious level. For example, when a person is out shopping they are not actively thinking of recycling, however, when seeing a product packet or icon (indicating it is sustainable) it will easily be brought to consciousness. Making sure consumers know what your packaging is made of is key. Consumers are constantly evaluating and comparing products, so make yours stand out.

Sustainability is a priority.

The stats make a shocking read. Every day around 8 million pieces of plastic makes their way into our oceans. 1 in 3 three fish caught for human consumption contains plastic. The world produces 381 million tonnes in plastic waste yearly – this is set to double by 2034. The list continues.

Increased awareness of sustainability is making 46% of Brits alone feel guilty about the amount of plastic they use and across countries, 83% say they check on-pack instructions to know how to dispose of the packaging. Which is very encouraging. Presenter and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has played a substantial role in sparking the public's interest and concern with the amount of plastic that is being used and wasted.

Research has shown that consumers want to be better educated on recycling practices and how to live a more sustainable life.

Customers have raised expectations for brands.

Businesses will begin to find themselves under pressure to use sustainable packaging for their products as shoppers are demanding actions from them to tackle pollution. “Recycling, packaging, businesses are all changing all of those things because that’s what consumers want.” Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Consumers play an important role in the market penetration of environmentally-friendly packaging because after all, they decide whether or not to purchase a product.

According to a recent report from Food Matters Live, globally, 42% of consumers agree or strongly agree that retailers should be doing more to protect the planet. They often feel that the damage done to the environment is more the responsibility of big businesses than the individual as they are producing the products. Also, 10% of global consumers say that they have changed retailers to one that is more environmentally friendly in the last two years when it comes to purchasing food and drinks.

As a manufacturer or retailer, it is important to take this information into consideration when developing strategies for plastic reduction.

However, Unilever is one example that has decided to take matters into their own hands. Since 2017, Unilever has been adapting and changing its approach to ensure its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025, and to use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging, also by 2025. To achieve their goals they have brought several innovations to the market such as shampoo bars, cardboard deodorant sticks, and bamboo toothbrushes. This has led to a lot of positive feedback from consumers, which is always a bonus.

We believe companies are going to have to keep changing their ways to keep up with customers' expectations regarding sustainable packaging to be successful.

Whether you need insight to adjust your strategies for existing brands to the new normal or are thinking about launching new products we can help you get it right. Emotional Logic is a specialist behavioural insight agency and we offer a range of cost-effective research solutions to ensure your strategy connects with the constantly shifting needs of the consumer. Please get in touch for a free consultation.

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