Excess packaging, especially plastics, is causing widespread concern among the British public according to new research from Kantar TNS, whose survey of 1,260 Brits shows that 63% are concerned about reducing the amount of packaging they buy.
Plastic drink bottles and bags are seen as the worst offenders, with single-use cups, takeaway boxes and straws also blamed for causing excess waste.
Eve Dixon, managing director of Consumer Retail and Lifestyle at Kantar TNS, one of the world’s largest research agencies, comments: “There is a marked difference in how different generations feel about this issue. While half of 16-34 year olds are concerned about how much packaging they’re buying, this rises to over 70% among over-55s.
“With a six-fold increase in global plastic consumption in the last 40 years alone, these generations can remember a time when plastic was scarce and are therefore more likely to notice trends towards excess packaging.”
Over half (51%) of over-65s cited single-use coffee cups as one of the worst offenders for contributing to packaging waste, in comparison to only a quarter of 16-24s.
Meanwhile, 41% of the oldest age group mentioned takeaway packaging as a particular offender, in contrast with one in four of the younger group. Older consumers are consequently more likely to see the problem as something that can be addressed: 29% are “resolved to do their bit” to solve the crisis, versus 14% of 16 to 24 year olds.
Younger consumers appear more fatalistic – 22% said they felt helpless in tackling the crisis, compared to only 8% of over 65s.
In a list of important factors for shoppers, packaging takes priority over other environmental concerns such as whether a product is Fairtrade or the size of its carbon footprint. Yet despite these worries packaging remains far behind price, quality and special offers in a list of shoppers’ top considerations.
With real wage growth remaining stagnant and the cost of living a concern to many, environmental factors remain secondary to filling the shopping basket at a reasonable price.
When it comes to approaches to reducing waste, ideas that avoid a direct charge to consumers are most popular. When asked which schemes they thought were a great idea, 54% of all respondents supported a deposit return on glass bottles, 51% a plastic-free aisle in supermarkets and 43% stations for refilling water bottles. However, the numbers drop to only 34% and 27% for charges on single-use cups and takeaway boxes, with a significant minority saying these approaches simply will not work.
The older the age group the greater the move away from supporting state intervention and towards manufacturers and individuals – among the oldest group (65 and up), 48% think manufacturers should lead, 23% say consumers, and only 10% think the job lies with the government
Eve Dixon continues: “Any government looking to extend the successful 5p charge on plastic bags more widely can expect some opposition, at least to begin with. However, manufacturers ought to note that the results should encourage proactive efforts to deal with the crisis.
“Bottle deposit schemes and plastic-free aisles not only avoid the taxes feared by both shoppers and manufacturers, they are also enthusiastically accepted by the public. Implementing such initiatives not only helps reduce packaging but engages consumers too – a potential competitive advantage.”
When asked who should take the lead in reducing packaging, manufacturers come out top, according to 36% of respondents. Young people see a stronger role for the state: amongst 16-24s year olds one third thinks the government should lead, 22% say manufacturers and only 13% say consumers.
The older the age group the greater the move away from supporting state intervention and towards manufacturers and individuals – among the oldest group (65 and up), 48% think manufacturers should lead, 23% say consumers, and only 10% think the job lies with the government.