Almost one in five consumers (19%) have said they would not buy from online retailers who do not use sustainable packaging, according to a survey published today (1 November, 2021).
UK consumers share their experiences of opening online deliveries. The survey was completed by 600 people over the summer and covered online purchases from the fashion, food & drink, home & garden, and health & beauty sectors, with products ranging from cosmetics to large home appliances.
With national lockdown restrictions in place throughout the first part of 2021, consumers increasingly turned to the internet to meet their shopping needs while they remained at home. The survey showed that 88% of respondents said they spent more time shopping online during the pandemic and, of those, 64% said this behaviour would not change in the future, with 30% of consumers saying that they are likely to increase their online shopping.
Confirming the rise of the eco-conscious shopper, 97% of respondents said they follow recycling instructions where possible. However, 14% advised they were unsure about the recyclability of the packaging they received due to no instructions regarding disposal. This highlights the need for clear directions for end-users to understand how to dispose of their packaging responsibly.
Other highlights of the survey include:
Delivery:96% of respondents said they favoured home delivery over click and collect, with 55% selecting home delivery for convenience, and 40% taking advantage of free delivery.
Sustainability: 73% of respondents thought that the packaging they received was recyclable.
Packaging branding: There was an increase in deliveries with unbranded packaging, growing from 32% in 2020 to 45% in 2021, suggesting that an increasing number of online retailers are missing the opportunity to connect with customers through an immersive unboxing experience that represents their brand.
Damages: There was a slight increase in the percentage of damaged deliveries, increasing from 5% in 2020 to 9% in 2021.
The survey was carried out across the summer of 2021, with respondents sharing images of their unboxing experience as well as completing the survey. The results are designed to provide retailers with valuable feedback from consumers.
The experience of opening a package containing a product ordered online has become known as “unboxing”. Video and consumer reviews of not only products but the packaging that they arrive in are an important consideration for retailers.
These include new decontamination stages to ensure compliance with food-grade standards in the EU and the USA.
Major organizations including brand-owners, suppliers, universities, and industry associations, through to end-users in the PP supply chain, have joined NEXTLOOPP to produce a ‘world-first quality FGrPP that will be available in the UK by 2022.
So far 29 organisations across the PP supply chain have joined NEXTLOOPP.
Edward Kosior, chief executive of Nextek, said creating a circular economy for food-grade PP packaging waste fills the gap in the packaging recycling sector and helps reach net-zero carbon targets.
“It will allow brand owners to meet their recycling targets and significantly reduce the use of virgin plastics from petrochemicals. It will also greatly reduce CO2 emissions and divert waste from landfill and waste-to-energy.”
WRAP has confirmed that The UK Plastics Pact is supporting the NEXTLOOPP project. Acting director insights and innovation, Claire Shrewsbury, said: “Achieving this will enable UK Plastics Pact members to reach the target of an average of 30% recycled content across all packaging by 2025. WRAP believes that NEXTLOOPP offers a potential solution to this and we will work closely with the other stakeholders to develop the project further.”
Viridor’s director of business development (polymers), Luke Burgess, said: “Viridor believes that extending its polymers expertise and recycling experience to cross-sector collaboration and innovation is key to ensuring more waste is valued as a resource and returns to the circular economy where it belongs. Reducing our reliance on virgin plastic not only empowers greater circularity, but the continued use of recycled material also offers significant energy savings, contributing to considerable wider environmental benefits for the UK.”
Lubna Edwards, group sustainability and marketing director at Robinson Packaging, added: “Demand for this high-value recycled material will continue to rise as we shift away from using virgin material. Much of our UK business depends upon PP and this ground-breaking project gives us the opportunity to tap into cutting-edge technology, learn from industry partners and trial the material for sustainable use in our packaging.”
Adam Elman, group sustainability director at Klockner Pentaplast, said: “Capturing the value of plastics by keeping them within the economy and out of our natural environment is key to meeting the Plastics Pact targets and very much part of our business strategy. Swapping the traditional ‘take-make-waste linear model for a circular system is also one of the many important steps towards significantly reducing our carbon emissions. We are proud to be working in collaboration with NEXTLOOPP on this important project.”
If you’re interested in starting an environmentally sustainable business, you’ll have to think about whether your products or packaging are biodegradable. For such a common term, though, there is plenty of confusion about what it actually means.
So, what does it mean for something to be biodegradable? In basic terms, the definition is simple: If something is biodegradable, then, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to its basic components and blend back in with the earth. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind.
For example, when a plant-based product might break down into carbon dioxide, water, and other naturally occurring minerals, the substance seamlessly mixes back into the earth, leaving no toxins behind. Unfortunately, many materials—even ones with a biodegradable label—do break down in a more harmful manner, leaving chemicals or other damaging substances in the soil.
In terms of environmental benefits, the best biodegradable material will break down quickly rather than taking years. It leaves nothing harmful behind and saves landfill space. Unfortunately, not everything that’s advertised as “biodegradable” meets these criteria. If you’re going to run a green business, you should know how to make sure the materials you use are safely and efficiently biodegradable, as well as accurately labelled.
What Materials Are Biodegradable?
Some items are obviously biodegradable. Examples include food scraps and wood that hasn’t been treated with chemicals to resist bugs and rot. Many other items, such as paper, also biodegrade relatively easily. Some products will biodegrade eventually, but it may take years. This includes steel products, which eventually will rust through and disintegrate, and some plastics.
However, conditions are important to encourage biodegradability. Products that will biodegrade in nature or in home compost heaps may not biodegrade in landfills, where there’s not enough bacteria, light, and water to move the process along.
Biodegradable ≠ Compostable
Many organic companies use biodegradable packaging for products or produce organic biodegradable products, but the items may not be as biodegradable as customers think. To make matters more confusing, many items are labelled as “compostable.”
Compostable products are all biodegradable, but they are specifically intended for a composting environment. In the right setting, these products break down even more quickly, usually within 90 days, and they leave behind a nutrient-rich organic material called humus, which creates a healthy soil environment for new plant growth.
Whether an item is compostable or simply biodegradable, it needs to be placed in an environment that facilitates its breakdown. Compostable products require composting environments. But, even some biodegradable items need to be degraded in a controlled composting environment or facility—and very few of these facilities exist in the United States. These large facilities are designed to keep materials at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 consecutive days.
For example, PLA, a popular biodegradable material for green companies, will only decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a controlled composting environment, not in a backyard composting arrangement, according to standards developed by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
With all of these variables, business owners need to communicate clearly with their customers about what they mean when they say “biodegradable.” Even better are those businesses that take it a step further and educate their customers about how to properly dispose of their products.
Biodegradable Claims on Plastic in California
Businesses operating or selling to customers in California will have an extra impetus to be careful with these terms. California tends to have more stringent regulations involving food and product environmental claims (hence the warning labels stating items have been “found by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm”).
When it comes to biodegradable claims, the state is also out in front with regulations limiting the use of certain terms. For example, in Calfornia, it’s illegal to sell any plastic item, or any item with plastic packaging, that includes a label stating it’s “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “decomposable,” “compostable” or “marine degradable” (or any alternate form of those terms).
It’s also illegal in the state to sell a plastic product labeled “home compostable” (or some equivalent claim) unless the manufacturer holds a Vincotte OK Compost HOME certificate. Vincotte is a Belgium-based inspection and certification organization. Finally, the state bans the use of potentially misleading marketing terms, such as “environmentally friendly,” when they’re applied to plastic products and packaging.
Use Terms Carefully
Whether you’re doing business in California or not, it’s wise to be thorough in planning your sustainable business. After all, terms like “biodegradable” are only meaningful if using them actually helps the environment. And that’s the goal for more and more business owners today.
McDonald’s UK is to remove single-use plastics from its salads range and plastic lids from all McFlurry ice creams, in a drive to reduce plastic packaging.
All main meal and side salads will be served in 100% renewable and recyclable cardboard containers instead of single-use plastic.
Changing out the existing plastic bowl, shaker salad cups and lids will result in 102 metric tons of plastic being removed annually.
The fast-food giant is also ditching plastic lids from all McFlurry ice creams from September which it said will reduce plastic waste by 383 metric tonnes annually.
The new salad and meal containers are made from carton board which contains 50% recycled content and 50% new, which itself comes from certified sustainable sources.
The coating on the containers, designed to keep them rigid, is also 100% renewable.
In total, the new packaging across the McFlurry and salads range will reduce plastic waste by 485 metric tonnes annually, said McDonald’s.
Beth Hart, Supply Chain Director, McDonald’s UK & Ireland said: “Removing plastic lids from the McFlurry, and introducing new cardboard packaging for salads, will save nearly 500 metric tonnes of plastic a year. It’s the latest step in our sustainability journey.
“We are committed to listening to our customers and finding solutions with our suppliers that work for them, this is the latest example of that – but by no means the end. We continue to look for solutions for our cutlery and lids, for example, but this is great progress. For us, sustainability is about more than just packaging. We have to look at the whole journey – by 2030 we’re committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36%.”