Submitted by: Sam Upton September 1, 2020
Over the past few months, there have been a number of products that have emerged as essential. One of those products is paper/cardboard packaging. With an increased demand for home delivery and e-commerce, sustainable packaging has become increasingly vital at a time when consumer items and medical products need to be shipped quickly and safely all around the world.
But do people care what their packaging is made of? Are they trying to increase their use of recyclable packaging? And are people aware of the sustainable benefits of cardboard packaging? Two Sides decided to find out.
Our survey said…
The Two Sides European Packaging Preferences 2020 study aimed to explore and understand consumer preferences, perceptions and attitudes towards packaging. To find all this out, independent research company Toluna spoke to 5,900 consumers from nine European countries – Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
What they discovered was that cardboard was by far the preferred packaging material, chosen for its recyclable nature, lighter weight, ease of opening and lower cost.
“Packaging was placed firmly on the agenda for consumers after thought-provoking documentaries such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, which demonstrated the impact our waste is having on the natural environment,” says Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Sides. “Our survey shows consumers around Europe recognise paper-based packaging’s environmental qualities.”
People prefer paper
In the survey, respondents were asked to choose their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, glass, metal or plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical and visual attributes. In 10 out of the 15 attributes, paper/cardboard came out as the clear winner, with glass claiming four and metal one.
Going into the detail, 63% of people said that paper/cardboard was the best for the environment, with 57% saying that paper/cardboard was the easiest material to recycle.
Other popular attributes of paper/cardboard was that it’s home-compostable (72%), lighter in weight (62%), less expensive (54%), and easier to open and close (41%). Safety, practicality, simple storage and an ability to display better product information were also key attributes for the material.
The business case
Throughout the survey, consumer attitudes towards plastic were clear, with the material only coming close to paper/cardboard in one attribute: increased practicality. But overall, 70% of respondents stated that they are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging, while 46% of respondents said that they now buy more from retailers who are removing plastic from their packaging.
These findings strongly reflect increasing consumer awareness of how packaging is impacting the planet, particularly its wildlife, something that’s changing business attitudes regarding their environmental policies and use of single-use packaging. In our survey, 44% of people said they would be willing to spend more on a product if it were packaged using sustainable materials, while 48% would actually consider avoiding a retailer if they knew they were not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable plastic packaging.
An undervalued resource
While the survey results show that most consumers know that paper/cardboard is recyclable, we wanted to find out exactly how much people knew about its recycling rates. We asked our survey group what they thought the recycling rate of paper/cardboard packaging was, and almost all respondents vastly underestimated the percentage.
While the majority considered paper/cardboard to be the most recycled material, just 30% believed the European recycling rate to be over 60%. Given that the actual European recycling rate of paper/cardboard is 85%, this shows there is still a significant number of consumers who are unaware of the high recycling rate of paper/cardboard packaging.
“This clearly shows that despite the many positive developments in packaging sustainability, some areas remain misunderstood, particularly paper’s high recycling rate,” says Jonathan Tame.
•To read the full report, go here
 European Environment Agency, 2019