Environmental responsibility

Recycling has become second nature to most of us in the UK, with more people now accustomed to sorting their rubbish and ensuring it goes into the correct coloured bin ready for collection.

And at this time of year many of us must take a trip to the local recycling centre to get rid of the huge amount of cardboard and paper built up over the Christmas period.

Huge advances have been made in building sustainability awareness among the British people and, almost invariably, it’s the recycling bin that ends up fullest on collection day. Consumers can fill their bin with bottles, cans, paper and indeed cardboard, knowing that it can be reprocessed and find use once again – even several times over.

But for many this would still seem not to be enough. Research published just over 12 months ago indicated that consumers are still hankering for more sustainable packaging.

The survey of 2,000 adults across the UK by the Chartered Institute of Marketing revealed that more than four in five consumers believed companies used too much packaging when delivering or selling products. Meanwhile, nearly the same amount wanted to see these companies doing more to promote sustainable packaging.

The research also revealed that packaging is an area where many consumers are prepared to take action – around a quarter of people were reusing left-over packaging, double the amount of the previous year.

But how can the industry and its partners tap into this deep-seated desire among consumers to do more? Transparency around sustainability ambitions, and clear action in this area, would seem to hold the key for many.

One solution lies in a clear commitment to using less packaging. A range of slim and lightweight products is now available to contain and protect goods, without compromising on performance. An area where this can make a major difference is in takeaway food, but that is by no means the only one. As well as thinner, lighter materials, clever design can help keep the quantity of packaging used to a minimum.

Wider use of truly recyclable materials – such as cardboard rather than plastic – is another option, as these can often be reused and then readily recycled, several times over. This direction is becoming increasingly popular with retailers keen to showcase their sustainability credentials to consumers faced with a vast array of suppliers, many of whom may be selling exactly the same items.

For these consumers, cost may be a driving factor in purchase but it’s by no means the only one. Nearly one-third of respondents indicated that a retail order received with excess packaging would discourage them from using that supplier in future.

Sustainability is a key criterion for consumers when making a purchase – and the packaging and retail sectors should not be shy when it comes to stating their ambitions around sustainability, and what they are doing to work with consumers to ensure these aims are fulfilled.