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Reducing plastic packaging: Brands, retailers and government are not living up to consumer expectations

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The latest TIPA survey reveals that consumers, while also feeling responsible, expect more from government and retail industry players in the fight to reduce the number of single-use plastic packaging, which is mostly non-recycled and non-recyclable. They also declare their willingness to make use of innovative and more sustainable solutions, such as compostable packaging.
 
Uno study TIPA corp reveals that the ambitions declared by the French government and the measures taken by brands and distributors do not meet the expectations of consumers, who are aware and concerned about the impact of plastic waste on the environment and health. 83% of consumers agree that the industry is not doing enough to combat the phenomenon. According to the report, 62% also say they are willing to spend more on a product if it is packaged in a plastic-free package.
 
The report highlights that the ambitions recently announced by Edouard Philippe in the circular economy roadmaps goal of recycling 100% of plastics by 2025 is widely supported (at 83%) but 66.8% of consumers believe that more should be done (66.8%) in plastics waste disposal policies.

Citizens and consumers aware of the issues, their role and ready to make concessions

The data collected show that the problem and impact of non-recycled or non-recyclable plastic waste is now perceived by almost all respondents (96.1%), confirming the individual and collective awareness of citizens.
In terms of responsibility, the entire value chain is involved for them:
- 74.6% believe that they have a direct role - total or partial - to play in the fight for less plastic waste ;
- 35.2% believe that the responsibility lies with industry/retailers ;
- 32% are convinced that the government is the actor that should make the most effort ;
- 25,9% consider that it is up to traders to reduce the number of packages present at their point of sale.
 
89.3% of the consumers surveyed expressed concern (or even very concern, for 50.8% of them) about the more global impact of plastic packaging. The direct adverse consequences of plastics on marine life (85%) and on land (73%) top the list of concerns, followed by the impact on human (60%) and animal (53%) health through the ingestion of plastic molecules entering the food chain. Finally, the purely unattractive aspect of this waste is cited by more than half of the respondents (51%).
 
An additional concern for consumers who are also concerned about access to healthier food (47.6%), the fight against food fraud (40.7%), the fight against GMOs (40.2%), the local (38%) and seasonal (34.1%) origin of the products, their sustainability (36.8%) and fair trade (31.4%). Fears that lead them to pay more attention to the products they buy and, above all, to be more demanding with regard to brands.

Consumers are open to new packaging solutions, such as compostable alternatives.

When asked what concrete actions they would be prepared to take, consumers commit themselves :
- 79% of respondents said they were ready, or even completely ready, to be able to consider and treat packaging as organic waste in the case of compostable packaging (to be composted in their garden or at a dedicated collection centre) ;
- 75.5% declare that they would like to be able to return their single-use plastic packaging after use in dedicated depot areas ;
- 72.7% would like to be able to switch to unpackagging/"bulk" purchasing when making their purchases.
 
As regards the solution of compostable packaging, 79% of respondents believe that brands under-use it, 29% that this type of packaging should eventually totally replace plastic packaging and 23.3% that a brand is more likely to attract the attention of consumers by using it.
 
Almost 83% of consumers say they would favour a brand offering compostable packaging over a comparable brand not offering it, of which 41% say that this argument would be decisive in the act of purchase.
Compostable packaging, however, remains a solution that is still little known to the general public: 26.3% of respondents were not aware of this solution before participating in the survey.

Brands and the retail industry need to do more, or risk losing customers

83% of the consumers surveyed agree that the retail industry is not making enough effort to combat the problem of plastic waste; only 4% of the respondents consider these efforts partly or totally sufficient. During their manufacture, and even before their purely functional dimension, the environmental impact of packaging should be taken into account more by retailers and brands (21.8%), or even be the number one priority for brands, for almost half of the respondents (49.2%).
Beyond these expectations, consumers would be willing to change their own habits: 61.7% of them are open to the idea of paying a little more for a product if it is packaged in a more durable, plastic-free packaging, for example compostable. 26% of them already say they favour brands that go in this direction.
 
Consumers are also not soft on retailers, especially supermarkets. The survey reveals that for 95% of consumers, it is time for brands and supermarkets to replace packaging that is not or only with difficulty recyclable with more environmentally friendly solutions. And if 18.6% of them think that they cannot afford it, the rest believe that they can (55.7%), that they should offer alternatives without packaging (9.9%), or packaging without plastic (9.5%).

Government ambitions that are laudable but unrealistic and do not go far enough

France ranks second last in the ranking of the best European recyclers of Plastics Europeand its packaging market represents 23 billion out of the 100 billion euro market in Europe. In an attempt to do better, the government announced the publication in May 2018 of the roadmap for a circular economy. One of the flagship measures in this document would be to be able to recycle 100% of plastics in France by 2025. When asked about this objective, 36.6% of the panel agreed, or strongly agreed, to 46.7%, but only a quarter (24%) of consumers said they were convinced that this measure was realistic and feasible and 35.4% thought this objective could be achieved, but not by 2025.
 
The report highlights that 66.8% of respondents want the government to have more ambitions to eliminate plastic waste. 21.8% think that things are going quite far as they are (when only 3.9% feel that the stated ambitions go a bit/too far); evidence of a real willingness to change on the part of citizens and their support for more restrictive measures. For example, 86.8% of consumers agree with extending the ban on single-use plastic products, similar to the ban on plastic cutlery from 2020 in France. And only 7.9% are against extending this type of measure.
 
The survey also asks how we should address the problem of the 7th continent, this agglomeration of plastic waste, which today occupies 1.6 million km2 in the Pacific Ocean:
- Nearly half cite self-responsibility as the primary solution (49.5%) with using less plastic and stopping consuming single-use products such as plastic cutlery;
- Then comes the idea of a stricter and more demanding choice of brands consumed (43.3%),
- The use of new technologies to eradicate the problem (43%) ;
- Finally, the need to educate and raise awareness of plastics waste issues among those around them was identified by nearly a quarter of respondents (24%).
 
What is the purpose of plastic wrap? First and foremost, for food, to protect our food during transport and storage. However, packaging contaminates our food and pollutes the environment: small molecules present in the plastic interfere with the proper functioning of our body, these are endocrine disruptors, suspected to have entered the food through the packaging. These substances are used by industrialists for the shaping of our plastics and for their good resistance. They are thus unintentionally found in food after a more or less long contact with the packaging. Consequence: potentially toxic effects for humans after regular and long-term exposure.
Alternative solutions exist to stop this process, in particular using residues from the agricultural and agri-food industries, or bio-sourced and resistant mono-materials. (Qualipac Verescence,)or bioplastics, i.e. bio-based and/or biodegradable materials.
According to a recent UN report, 9% of the nine billion tonnes of plastics the world has ever produced have been recycled. While progress has been made in recent years, not all countries are at the same point. In Europe, for example, 31% of the nearly 26 million tonnes of plastic waste collected in 2016 has been recycled, according to the European plastics industry federation, PlasticsEurope, compared to around 10% in the USA.
These materials are on the rise, supported by greater environmental awareness on the part of governments, businesses and consumers: the European federation predicts a growth of 19% worldwide over the period 2017-2022.
The main obstacle to their development is their imposition on the packaging market instead of petrochemical plastics: governments should set up incentives and concerted actions on a European scale (specific collections, eco-taxes, ...).
And let's not forget that in 2020, the use of plastic plates, cutlery and cups will be banned! 

 

 
Methodology
Tipa Corp commissioned OnePoll to consult 1,000 French consumers on their perception of the impact of plastic waste on the environment and their preferences and expectations of brands, retailers and the government in terms of waste management and choice of packaging for consumer products.
 
 
 
 

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