General Manager of Pro Carton, the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard Manufacturers
General Manager, BPIF Cartons (British Printing Industries Federation)
Fuelled by the pandemic, consumers are keener than ever to make a difference to the environment and make more sustainable choices, starting with packaging.
Research by Pro Carton found that 54% of UK consumers have become more concerned about the environment since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Climate change was their second highest concern after the virus.
“Climate change is top of people’s minds and there is a strong desire from consumers to do the right thing,” says Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton.
“There has been a tremendous increase in interest in using and buying sustainable packaging across brand owners, retailers and consumers. The message has got through very forcibly, and governments are helping too by taking action to reduce the amount of waste we create and eliminate products and packaging which are not sustainable, not renewable, or which harm the environment at the end of life.”
Packaging needs during the pandemic
As a result of the pandemic, the importance of sustainable packaging solutions is becoming impossible to ignore for many. Households are seeing much more waste and are responding by recycling more. Of the 1,023 British consumers surveyed by Pro Carton, 61% claimed to be recycling more waste now than a year ago.
The change of lifestyle during the pandemic has made more people realise the importance of sustainability and recycling wherever they can.Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton
Hitchin remarks, “With the non-essential retail trade shut, we are all getting a lot more home deliveries. Recycling has become completely second nature and people are understanding more about their responsibilities to the environment. The change of lifestyle during the pandemic has made more people realise the importance of sustainability and recycling wherever they can.”
Meanwhile, with fewer opportunities to spend money on travel and leisure, over two-thirds of consumers said they would pay more for packaging which had less impact on the environment. In the UK, 50% said they have already switched brands based on concerns about packaging.
Finding new solutions
Consumers’ increased interest in sustainable solutions provides an opening for recyclable packaging options such as cardboard or cartonboard. A study by Material Economics found 25% of plastic packaging could be replaced by paper-based alternatives, reducing carbon dioxide by 85%.
Jon Clark, General Manager of BPIF Cartons, says, “The big advantage of paper-based packaging is that it comes from a renewable resource, is fully recyclable, and should it be erroneously put into nature it will biodegrade.
“That is what the circular economy should be all about. There is an origin and end of life for everything, that origin can be regenerated and no harm done at the end of life. That is the utopian position we want to get to.”
The big advantage of paper-based packaging is that it comes from a renewable resource, is fully recyclable, and should it be erroneously put into nature it will biodegrade.Jon Clark, General Manager of BPIF Cartons
With consumers more aware than ever of environmental issues, 75% said they would choose a product packaged in cardboard or cartonboard, while only 12% said plastic.
Clark adds, “Brand survival is based on understanding and satisfying consumer needs and this is so clear, it is really a no-brainer. Brands want to be responsible and appeal to their consumers.”
The future of cartonboard
Technological advances have seen the adaptability of cartonboard packaging solutions increase dramatically in recent years.
Products such as meat, ice cream and fast food can all now be packaged in it, as opposed to previously widespread alternatives like plastic or polystyrene, while bottles made from wood fibre are being developed for liquid products.
Clark explains, “The future of cartonboard is incredibly bright and long-term availability is good. It ticks so many boxes. European forest owners are planting more trees than are harvested and as more trees are planted, more carbon dioxide is taken out of the air. Forest-based products really are the answer and packaging is a huge part of that.”
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