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Packaging: doing better by using less

Four out of five adults believe that manufacturers should step up and do their part to reduce waste.

The trend

Manufacturers should be obliged to contribute to recycling and reutilizing the packaging of their products: this is an opinion shared across the globe by four out of five adults. And as many as 71% go so far as to assert that single use plastic should be banned altogether as soon as possible, a move that will soon go into effect in Canada and the European Union. Recent IPSOS research highlights these and other findings in: A Throwaway World. The Challenge of Plastic Packaging and Waste. This study surveyed over 19,000 adults representing 29 countries on five continents.

 

Growing awareness around the world of the environmental impact of packaging is generating consensus on new measures to enact at a policy level that could directly affect business activity. But this awareness encompasses individual behaviors too. In fact, three out of four people say they want to buy products with as little packaging as possible; the same number affirm that they have a more positive perception of companies that demonstrate environmental engagement – clear signals to companies aiming to realize sustainability branding. Even with all the due caution that this case calls for, given potential discrepancies between what people say (expressing their willingness to change) and what they do (their actual behaviors), the potential impact on consumption choices would be remarkable. In the survey, 63% of participants claimed they were willing to modify their buying habits, choosing different products and shopping at different stores, if it could help cut down on packaging. .

 

Major criticalities that arise in this context relate to public services, specifically the efficiency of recycling services for household waste, as well as clear recycling rules. Both these aspects are considered satisfactory by just over half of the survey participants, but with striking variations from country to country. What’s more, despite the fact that respondents understand the importance of recycling, it seems there’s still much work to be done on informing consumers: more than half think that all plastic can be recycled, which demonstrates the need for more awareness-raising campaigns on this issue.

 

Some takeaways

In light of the general tendency, which clearly rewards a sustainability-oriented approach, we still need to take into account the specificities of different national contexts. However, as far as packaging and recycling, the consensus seems to cover the entire planet, regardless of geographic location. Specifically, people think that manufacturers should be responsible (over 70% of respondents agree with this statement, except in Japan and Saudi Arabia), and they have a positive perception of more virtuous brands (over 65% in all countries, again with the exception of Japan and Saudi Arabia).

 

The picture becomes more complex when people are presented with specific policy measures. (Only 57% of people in Saudi Arabia and the US, for example, agree with the idea of banning single use plastic; that figure drops to 38% in Japan.) Likewise for concrete behaviors such as willingness to change shopping habits (stated by 78% of Peruvians and 75% of Indians, but just 50% of the people in the Netherlands, 49% in the US and 48% in Japan).

 

It comes as no great surprise that satisfaction with waste recycling services is noticeably higher in Northern countries such as Canada and Sweden (70%), as well as Italy (64%), compared with very low levels of satisfaction in some post-Communist countries like Serbia (22%) and Russia (24%), or Latin American nations such as Argentina (36%), Mexico (37%) and Chile (38%). Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these countries register a particularly broad consensus on the need for manufacturers to take direct responsibility for recycling - as if people are expressing a desire for private companies to step up and take the lead where public services don’t work.

 

 

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