Every year, the average European generates nearly three times their own body weight in product packaging waste. But times are changing.
As governments pass more regulations restricting the use of plastics, and consumers are looking for more environmentally-friendly product offerings, industries are adopting more innovative ways to make packaging that is attractive, useful, and has reduced environmental impact.
American personal care giant Procter & Gamble has posted their largest quarterly sales increase in decades, as consumers stocked up on home care and hygiene products during the coronavirus crisis. While the company has adjusted down their 2020 forecast to account for changes in the economy, they are anticipating a global sales increase of 3-4% for the year, bolstered by products like Pampers, Swiffer, Tide, and Mr. Clean.
P&G is also moving forward with their environmental initiatives, which includes having all their beauty and grooming products in 100% recyclable packaging by 2030. They are test marketing innovative paper packaging for their Secret and Old Spice deodorant brands, available in 500 US Walmart stores in May 2020. The new paper packaging is made of 90% recycled paper, with no wax, plastics, BPA, or PFA, appealing to eco-conscious Gen Z consumers.
The Sustainable Packaging Trend
P&G isn’t alone in this push to reduce packaging. Unilever is test marketing refill stations for many of their popular grooming products, potentially eliminating packaging altogether for loyal customers.
And it’s not just the CPG industry that is going green. The global eco-friendly food packaging market is worth an estimated 162 billion USD (source), and more and more companies are looking toward sustainable or reusable packaging. Samsung has gone viral recently with smart TV packaging that can be transformed into boxes, tables, and even pet houses.
What is Sustainable Packaging?
The three main components of sustainable packaging are:
- Biodegradable. The packaging consists of materials that can be broken down by micro-organisms in the natural environment.
- Renewable. The packaging is derived from natural and organic sources.
- Recyclable. The packaging can be used again and again in a circular economy.
In order to achieve these goals, companies are looking to paper products, bioplastics, starch-based food packaging, and easily recycled materials like metal and glass. Innovators are also looking at new uses for foams and other materials, and finding new ways to break down plastics to make them easier to reuse or recycle.
Consumer Demand for Sustainable Packaging
In 2018, products sold in sustainable packaging sold five times more than products sold in non-recyclable packaging, and studies repeatedly show that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods (source). In this respect, consumers and brands agree: in a global survey, 78% of consumers said they expect all beverages to be in eco-friendly containers by 2024, and 73% of beverage makers said their products will look outdated if they aren’t in eco-friendly containers by that time. Marketer warn that companies that do not adopt sustainable packaging risk damage to their reputations.
With the worldwide effects of Covid-19, Earth Day 2020 was unlike any other. But even in these unusual times, companies are moving forward on their environmental initiatives and striving to meet the demands of consumers, climate advocates, and governments alike.