Results of a new European survey reveal that paper-based packaging is favoured for being better for the environment, as consumers become increasingly conscious of their packaging choices.
The survey of 5,900 European consumers, conducted by industry campaign Two Sides and independent research company Toluna, sought to understand consumer preferences, perceptions, and attitudes towards packaging.
Respondents were asked to choose their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, glass, metal, and plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical, and visual attributes.
Among the 10 attributes paper/cardboard packaging is preferred for, 63% of consumers choose it for being better for the environment, 57% because it is easier to recycle and 72% prefer paper/cardboard because it is home compostable.
Glass packaging is the preferred choice of consumers for giving better protection of products (51%), as well as being reusable (55%) and 41% prefer the look and feel of glass.
Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Sides, states, “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. Our survey shows consumers around Europe recognise paper-based packaging’s environmental qualities, but some areas remain misunderstood, particularly paper’s high recycling rate.”
Consumer attitudes towards plastic packaging are clear, with 70% of respondents stating that they are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging. Plastic packaging is also accurately perceived to be the least recycled material, with 63% of consumers believing it to have a recycling rate of less than 40% (42% of plastic packaging is recycled in Europe1).
Paper/cardboard packaging is considered to be the most recycled material, with 30% believing the European recycling rate to be over 60%. With an actual recycling rate of 85%1, there is still a significant number of consumers who underestimate paper/cardboard packaging’s high recycling rate.
Glass is considered the second most recycled packaging material, followed by metal. With actual recycling rates of 74% and 80% respectively , the recyclability of these packaging materials is also widely misunderstood by consumers.
The survey found that consumers throughout Europe are willing to change their behaviour to shop more sustainably. 44% are willing to spend more on products if packaged in sustainable materials and nearly half (48%) would consider avoiding a retailer if they believe that retailer is not doing enough to reduce its use of non-recyclable packaging.
Jonathan continues, “Consumers are becoming more aware of the packaging choices for the items they buy, which in turn is applying pressure on businesses – particularly in retail. The culture of ‘make, use, dispose’ is slowly changing.”
The wide-reaching survey also explored consumer perceptions of retailers’ efforts to reduce use of non-recyclable packaging, awareness of forest certification and environmental labels, and shopping bag material preferences.
To read the full report, please visit here.
 Eurostat, 2017