New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Believe Paper-based Packaging is Better for the Environment than Other Packaging Materials

Packaging Preferences Unpacked

 

CHICAGO – June 9, 2021 –  With physical stores closed during the pandemic, the boom in online shopping resulted in record numbers of packages arriving on consumers’ doorsteps. Along with all that merchandise came a growing awareness of the materials used to package and ship products, and the impact those materials have on the environment. A new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna found that U.S. consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other packaging materials.

Paper: The preferred and sustainable packaging choice

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, plastic, glass and metal) based on 15 environmental, aesthetic and practical attributes. Overall, paper/cardboard packaging was preferred for 10 of the 15 attributes, with half of respondents saying paper/cardboard is better for the environment. Consumers also preferred paper/cardboard packaging on other environmental attributes, including being home compostable (65%) and easier to recycle (44%).

Glass packaging was preferred by consumers for four practical and aesthetic attributes, including being reusable (39%), having a preferred look and feel (39%), providing a better image for the brand (38%) and better protection (35%).  45% preferred metal packaging for being strong and robust. Plastic packaging was not preferred for any of the 15 attributes but was ranked second for six attributes. Only one in 10 respondents believe plastic packaging is better for the environment.

Consumers demand that brands and retailers do more

Brands and retailers play a crucial role in driving innovation and the use of recyclable packaging. In response to increasing consumer pressure to operate more sustainably, brands and retailers in many sectors, from wine, spirits and soft drinks to candy, cosmetics and apparel are shifting from plastic to paper packaging.

The survey found that 49% of consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, and 39% would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging.

“It’s important for consumers to understand that just because packaging is recyclable does not mean it actually gets recycled,” explains Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Around 66% of all paper and paper-based packaging and nearly 89% of corrugated cardboard gets recycled into new products in the U.S. These high recycling rates and expected increases are due to the paper industry’s already completed and continuing investment in recycling infrastructure, which between 2019 and 2023 will exceed $4 billion. In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection reports that plastics, glass and metals are recycled at just 9%, 25% and 34%, respectively.”

Who should be responsible for reducing waste from single-use packaging?

As consumers, businesses and governments looks for ways to create a more sustainable, circular economy, waste from single-use packaging, particularly in marine environments, has come into sharp focus. When consumers were asked who has the greatest responsibility for reducing the use of non-recyclable, single-use packaging, more than a third (36%) said individuals have the primary responsibility, followed by 23% who believe it’s up to brands and retailers, 23% who believe it’s up to packaging manufacturers, and 18% who believe it’s the government’s responsibility.

“As the call for the circularity of product lifecycles grows louder, paper has always had a head start,” Rowzie says. “And the industry’s strong support and investment in recycling has transformed the circularity of paper packaging from vision to reality. At a time when there is growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other packaging materials, paper recycling is a striking exception.”

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, and dispels common environmental misconceptions about paper products. We are part of the Two Sides global network which operates across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

About the survey

The survey, Paper’s Place in a Post-pandemic World, queried a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older across the United States in January 2021.

DOWNLOAD THE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

Media contact

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

 

As online shopping continues to grow, brands should consider consumers’ packaging preferences

The coronavirus pandemic’s demand-shock, brick-and-mortar store closures and stay-at-home orders have upended retail sales. As total spending declines, online spending is projected to surge by 18% in 2020, reflecting the impact of new buyers joining the online retail space as a result of the pandemic.  With ecommerce expected to reach 14.5% of total retail sales this year – both an all-time high and the biggest ever share increase in a single year* – the findings of Two Sides’ recent U.S. Packaging Preferences Survey provide brand owners with valuable insights into consumers’ current thinking on packaging materials, online shopping and related behavior.

  • More than half of consumers (57%) prefer products ordered online to be delivered in paper/cardboard packaging, and two-thirds (66%) believe paper/cardboard packaging is better for the environment than other types of packaging.
  • 70% of consumers prefer products ordered online to be delivered in appropriate fitting packaging, i.e., not too big for the size of the product inside.
  • 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.
  • When asked to rank their preferred packaging materials (paper and cardboard, glass, metal or plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical and visual/tactile attributes, paper and cardboard packaging ranked highest on 11 of 15 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.
  • 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, 36% saying they would avoid retailers if they knew they were not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable plastic packaging, and 44% saying the use of non-recyclable packaging should be discouraged through taxation.

“Only time will tell the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s little doubt that it is already changing many aspects of modern life, including the way we shop for everything from groceries, beauty items and health-related products to electronics, sports equipment and pet supplies,” says Two Sides Vice President of Operations Kathi Rowzie.

“Shopping online will become the new normal for many consumers as companies enhance their supply chains, get more efficient at packaging and order fulfillment, and speed up delivery. It’s also clear that growing awareness of sustainable packaging choices is becoming a driving force in consumer purchasing decisions. As brand owners rethink their packaging strategies to align with current market realities and consumer preferences, paper-based packaging stands out as a natural choice.”

The Two Sides Packaging Preferences Survey 2020 was conducted by independent research firm Toluna.  Download the full report here.                                                        

*eMarketer, US Ecommerce, 2020

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