Most U.S. Consumers Polled Say Paper-based Packaging is Better for the Environment

Two Sides North America Announces Results of Packaging Preferences 2020 Survey

As U.S. consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their packaging choices, a majority believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment, according to the results of Two Sides North America’s 2020 U.S. Packaging Preferences Survey.  The survey, which was conducted by independent consumer research company Toluna, sought to understand consumer preferences, perceptions and attitudes toward various types of packaging.

Respondents were asked to rank their preferred packaging materials (paper/cardboard, glass, metal and plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical and visual/tactile attributes.  Overall, paper/cardboard packaging ranked highest on 11 of the 15 attributes, with 66% of respondents saying paper/cardboard packaging is better for the environment.  Consumers also ranked paper/cardboard packaging highest on other environmental attributes, including being home compostable (69%) and easier to recycle (51%).

Glass packaging ranked highest among consumers on three practical and tactile/visual attributes, including being reusable (36%), having a preferred look and feel (32%) and providing better protection (29%).  Nearly half of respondents (47%) ranked metal packaging highest for being strong and robust.  Plastic packaging was not ranked highest for any of the 15 attributes but was ranked second highest for seven attributes.

“Interest in sustainable packaging continues to gain momentum as consumers become more aware of how various packaging materials impact the environment,” says Two Sides North America President Phil Riebel. “Our survey shows that U.S. consumers recognize paper-based packaging’s environmentally sustainable characteristics, but some areas remain misunderstood, particularly paper’s high recycling rate.”

The survey showed that paper/cardboard is correctly considered by consumers to be the most recycled packaging material, but only 24% think the U.S. recycling rate for paper/cardboard packaging exceeds 60%. In fact, 73% of all paper-based packaging in the United States is recycled, and 88% of cardboard is recycled, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Consumer attitudes toward plastic are clear, with 57% of survey respondents indicating they are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging. While consumers believe plastic packaging is the second-most recycled after paper/cardboard packaging, most respondents significantly overestimate the plastic packaging recycling rate, believing it to be between two and more than five times greater than the actual rate of 13%.[1]

Metal packaging is perceived to have the third highest recycling rate and glass packaging comes in fourth.  With latest available figures showing actual recycling rates of 73% and 34%[2], respectively, the level of recycling for these packaging materials also is widely misjudged.

The survey also found that consumers across the United States are willing to change their behavior to shop more sustainably. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) are willing to spend more on a product if it is packaged using sustainable materials, and more than a third (36%) said they would consider avoiding a retailer who is not taking steps to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging.

“Awareness of sustainable packaging choices is becoming a driving force in consumer purchasing decisions, which in turn is influencing businesses to rethink their packaging strategies, particularly in the retail sector,” Riebel says. “The culture of make, use and dispose is gradually changing.”

The wide-ranging Packaging Preferences Survey also explored consumer perceptions of various U.S. retailers’ efforts to increase their use of environmentally friendly packaging, awareness of forest certification and environmental labels, and preferences in shopping bag materials.

To read the full report, please visit

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2017

[2] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2017


New Two Sides Fact Sheet Explains Why Paper Bags Are “The Natural Choice”

There is increasing concern about the overuse of plastic bags and in particular, their contribution to marine litter. As a result of plastic pollution in the oceans, governments, retailers and other entities are taking action by introducing bans, fees and other initiatives to limit their use. As all concerned strive to reduce unnecessary packaging as part of a circular, less wasteful economy, paper bags, because of their inherent renewable and recyclable attributes, present an attractive, practical and natural alternative to plastic bags.  READ MORE

New Two Sides Infographic Shows Why Paper Bags are The Natural Choice

Two Sides North America today released an engaging new infographic that shows why paper bags, because of their inherent renewable and recyclable attributes, are an attractive, practical and natural alternative to plastic bags.

Citing authoritative sources, this infographic addresses the growing concern about the overuse of plastic bags and in particular, their contribution to marine litter. For example, according to the World Resources institute, each year about 8 million metric tons of plastic litter ends up in the ocean, where it can harm fish and wildlife and, once it enters the food chain, threaten human health. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that several states have banned single-use plastic bags and hundreds of municipalities have banned or imposed fees on their use, and the Office of the Prime Minister has announced that Canada expects to ban all single-use plastics, including plastic bags, as early as 2021.

The infographic also highlights some of the key reasons why paper bags are a sustainable alternative.

  • Compared to other materials, paper-based goods produced in a sustainable manner can be a wise choice because they come from a renewable resource – trees, the product of sunlight, soil, nutrients and water (World Resources Institute).
  • Paper is one of the most recycled materials in North America with a recovery rate of 68% in the United States and 70% in Canada (American Forest and Paper Association, Forest Products Association of Canada).
  • In a 2019 survey in the United States and Canada, consumers ranked paper as the second most environmentally friendly material (behind wood) out of 8 different materials and products. Plastics ranked seventh (Toluna and Two Sides).

“As all concerned strive to reduce unnecessary packaging as part of a circular, less wasteful economy, businesses and consumers can be confident that using paper bags is a responsible choice,” says Two Sides North America President Phil Riebel. “The raw material used for paper bags made in the U.S. and Canada comes from sustainably managed forests where trees are grown, harvested and regrown in accordance with responsible forest management practices, environmental regulations and globally recognized forest certification standards, and the U.S. and Canada are world leaders in paper recycling. That’s why paper bags are a natural choice.”

Download the new Two Sides new infographic here.

About Two Sides 

Two Sides North America is an independent, non-profit organization, and is part of the Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our member companies span the Graphic Communications and Paper-based Packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, paper-based packaging, chemicals and inks, pre-press, press, finishing, printing, publishing, envelopes and postal operations. For more information about Two Sides North America, visit us at and follow us on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Contact Two Sides at:


P:  1-855-896-7433



Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds® Campaign Provides Annual Update

Positive indicators show the paper industry is capitalizing on economy’s growth

On July 17, the Paper and Packaging Board released its 2018 Annual Report and State of the Campaign update highlighting the progress of the Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds® campaign. Positive-trending consumer preference data shows the most improved and robust measures of consumers’ desire for paper since the campaign launch in 2015.

Among the target audience who recall seeing campaign ads, measures related to personal relevance and attitudes around the quality of paper and paper-based product packaging have improved since the start of the campaign. 75 percent feel that storing and keeping information on paper is valuable in a digital world, 70 percent think more highly of companies and brands that use paper-based product packaging, and 75 percent find recycling worthwhile.

“The four-year-old campaign continues to create strong positive feelings about our products giving customers looking for an alternative to plastic even more reasons to use paper-based packaging,” according to Mary Anne Hansan, president of the Paper and Packaging Board. “Paper and paper-based packaging have high recyclability and these products come from a renewable resource. While the recycling market continues to sort itself out, most of the consumers surveyed remain committed to choosing and using paper.”

This year, the campaign focused on messaging tailored to strategy, learning, innovation and productivity. It optimized technology and intuitive website content to tell a story. The advertising campaign has appeared in primetime, late-night and digital TV, digital video, print advertising, social media platforms and in public relations campaigns. The multimillion-dollar campaign brings together manufacturers and importers of paper and packaging for the purposes of promotion. Visit for more information.

The combined marketing metrics, as well as other campaign results, can be found in the State of the Campaign update to the Industry, including the 2018 Annual Report on financials.

About the Paper and Packaging Board

The Paper and Packaging Board promotes the use of paper products and paper-based packaging by highlighting the value they bring to our daily lives. More than 40 U.S. manufacturers and importers collectively fund the national marketing campaign, Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds®.

Source: Paper and Packaging Board, click here for a link to the full report

Most Consumers See Recycling as Worthwhile and Prefer Paper Packaging

Is recycling worth it? For most consumers, the answer is: yes! Survey data released by the Paper and Packaging Board (P+PB) in its 2018 Campaign Impact Report reveals that 83% of consumers surveyed agree recycling paper of all kinds is still worthwhile. The Impact Report also shows that the paper and packaging industry is viewed more favorably than other materials industries.

In a separate survey about packaging, P+PB reports how consumers continue to rely on paper packaging as it plays a role in influencing their purchasing decisions. Products packaged in paper/cardboard were perceived as being more attractive and higher quality by roughly two thirds. Furthermore, 68% of consumers said they were most likely to buy something in a paper or cardboard package if given the choice between paper or plastic.

Read more about P+PB’s survey findings and data about how consumers feel about paper recycling and packaging