Packaging can influence consumers to recycle

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Consumer demands are often the driving force of the way certain industries evolve. Right now, the packaging industry is changing to become more eco-friendly, as more consumers are demonstrating an appreciation of sustainable packaging options.

According to Nielsen, 55 percent of consumers value sustainable packaging more than low prices, and 52 percent said their purchasing decisions are partially based on the company’s packaging choices. Essentially, if the protection is sustainable, they are more likely to buy.

But despite consumers’ demands for greener protective packaging solutions, there seems to be a disconnect as to how they can contribute to a product’s effect on the environment.

Most plastics aren't recycled.Printing recycling instructions or a symbol can help remind consumers to recycle.

As Packaging Digest pointed out, consumers don’t always know what can be recycled, and how they can do this. Some communities are working hard to increase recycling rates. Packaging Digest pointed out that North Carolina’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, which helps educate residents on ways to recycle waste, is a great example of this.

“Consumers look to the packaging to find out how to recycle an item.”

Packaging makes a difference
Though efforts from companies and communities are critical in raising recycle rates, there are additional approaches that can help as well. According to Packaging World, consumers’ main source of information about how to recycle comes from the packaging material itself. One study found that 67 percent of respondents assume an item can’t be recycled if the packaging doesn’t specifically say it can. More than half of consumers look to the packaging to find out how to recycle an item, while only about one-third check on a community recycling website. Even less look to the brand’s website.

Packaging World noted that many consumers want to recycle the products that they can, but aren’t always aware of how to do so. Providing a visual cue by printing or adding an image or certain quality such as a green tint to alert the consumer to the product’s recyclability can help remind consumers to recycle.

“The survey results reiterate what we have long believed, that we must work together— the packaging manufacturers, brands, and everyone in between—to ensure we are talking to consumers in a clear way about the recyclability of our products,” Jason Pelz, the vice president of recycling projects for the carton council of North America, explained.

Packaging companies can have a large effect on future recycling rates. By including in the packaging design a trigger to recycle the materials, more consumers are likely to do so.