Packaging reduction “driven by consumer perception”
Packaging decisions are driven by consumer perceptions and lifestyle requirements, according to the conclusions of a new report. Consumers tend to equate quality with quantity, with both price and product weight influencing consumers perception of quality, despite the potential environmental and social costs. Their pursuit of active and healthy lifestyles can also help to contribute to inefficiencies because the demand for packaging to deliver convenience, ease of use and portion control is often translated into smaller pack sizes. The research, from environmental newsletter the Use Less Stuff (ULS) Report, found that reducing the packaging weight of a product continues to offer significant opportunities to reduce net discards and conserve both materials and energy.
It also claimed that the best way to minimise material to landfill was through the use of lighter weight packaging, while source reduction continues to play a significant role in the effort to reduce material usage and waste. Larger product or packaging sizes are significantly more efficient than their smaller counterparts, regardless of their material, and food products that require greater preparation are generally more efficiently packed than those that are ready to consume. The ULS Report has also published figures that show total municipal solid waste in the US fell by 16.5m tons between 2000 and 2013, from 254.1m tons to 237.6m tons.
ULS Report editor Robert Lilienfeld said: There are three legs on the sustainability stool economic, environmental, and social. The study clearly shows that, over the past 20 years, packaging has evolved to more effectively deliver on these sustainability requirements.
In general, the environmental impact of food is up to 10 times greater than the impact of its packaging. So, a bit more portion control or ready-to-eat food packaging can actually reduce waste, as these packages ensure that the food inside is actually eaten rather than thrown away.