Younger consumers in much of the world are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging but have wildly inaccurate perceptions of which packaging materials are really being recycled, according to the 2021 Buying Green Report released for Earth Day.
The annual report, by Trivium Packaging, a $2.7B global metal packaging company and the Boston Consulting Group, is based on a demographically balanced survey of 15,000 consumers across Europe, the U.S., and South America. The data revealed that 83% of consumers younger than 44 are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Two-thirds of consumers surveyed valued recyclable packaging but far fewer had an accurate idea of which packaging materials are the most readily recycled.
The most environmentally aware consumers were found In South America, where 77 percent of consumers were inclined to adopt sustainability values and 58 percent were inclined to apply those values to shrink their environmental footprint. European consumers followed, with 70 percent inclined to adopt sustainability as a value and 57 percent willing to apply those values to daily life. Consumers in the United States trailed far behind, with only 50 percent adopting sustainability as a value and just 40 percent trying to shrink their environmental footprint.
Consumers in all three regions rated plastic as the least sustainable packaging material. More than half – 55 percent – associated plastic with the term “harmful,” and 63 percent associated plastic with ocean pollution. Despite that bad reputation, the consumers surveyed wildly overestimated how much plastic is recycled. Respondents perceive that 41 percent of plastic is recycled, while in reality only 14 percent is. A frustrating finding for Trivium was that consumers think only about 48 percent of metal is recycled, while in reality 64 percent of metal is reused.
“Consumers did not recognize that metals are infinitely recyclable and overestimated the recyclability of other materials, such as plastic and glass. This is a result of too many inconsistencies in environmental messages and labels, differences in local recycling processes, as well as a general lack of awareness of best recycling practices,” said Jenny Wassenaar, Vice President Sustainability, Trivium Packaging.
The entire report is available here.