Worries about how Covid-19 is spread have changed the manner in which certain people use packaging and order consumer products. That being said, evidence shows that sustainability tends to lead to the buying choices of a large cohort of customers. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, consumers and companies have had to change the way they perceive packaging safety and health, with the “Plastic Fight” being postponed to resolve these issues.
Early in the pandemic, confusion about how the disease spread has ensured that survival has taken the back seat of the plurality of consumers. Consumers were worried that reusable packaging could raise the risk of contamination and that single-use plastics could return to the market, despite being regarded as bad for the environment and harmful. Plastic waste has started to rise, with some consumers throwing away masks and gloves carelessly.
Regulatory measures have been postponed. The ban on disposable straw in the United Kingdom was postponed from April to October. In the United States, several states have postponed restrictions on single-use plastic bags. Also a lot of them temporarily banned the use of reusable plastic bags.
David Wilson, UK chief executive of Vanden Recycling, said: “It is clear that there’s been a partial change in consumer views towards plastics since the start of pandemic. There is growing demand for plastic bags and expanded use in certain regions.
“That, though, also goes hand-in – hand with the promise of the opportunity to recycle the packaging and to provide recycled material. There has been no fall in demand of PET and HDPE to be used in plastic bottles, as well as other polymers are not needed for many other plastic packaging applications.
“For the time being, it appears like the public’s antipathy against plastic as a product packaging has been put aside as they care of the quality and safety of the products they buy.”
Packaging giant Amcor carried out research two months ago that demonstrated the need for improved recyclability. The findings of the company’s studies have shown that customers continue to hear about recycling methods as well as how to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
At the end of June, scientists from different countries signed a resolution advising people to return to recycled packaging, calling it safe to use.
Greenpeace’s open letter said: “Refill and reuse systems are an integral part of solving the plastic waste challenge and shifting away from the fossil fuel industry, generating jobs and helping to create local economies.
“The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a debate about how to guarantee the stability of reusable systems in a national public health crisis. It is evident from the scientific evidence and advice from public health experts that reversible systems could be used effectively with the application of basic hygiene.
The statement clarified that the virus is primarily transmitted by inhalation of airborne particles droplets and not through interaction with objects or surfaces, and that disposable goods offer comparable problems to reusable products.
TIPA, an Israeli-based flexible packaging firm, conducted a study to figure out just how plastic attitudes in the UK changed after the start of Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings of the survey found that, despite the pandemic, 85 per cent of consumers agree that crops can replace plastic food packaging and 58 per cent are ready to pay more. In addition, 67 per cent of consumers voiced concern over rising plastic waste during the United Kingdom lockdown.
“The vast majority of UK customers are worried about increased plastic waste and are turning to the food sector and the government to enable them to buy healthier alternatives, even though they cost more,” says TIPA Co-founder and CEO Daphna Nissenbaum.
“While traditional plastics still threaten our oceans, ecosystems, natural areas and our environment, compostable packaging will fully degrade and safely come back to earth. It is time for decision-makers to demonstrate leadership and promote compostable packaging for the good of nature.
Richard Bracewell, marketing and technical manager of the UK paper goods division James Cropper Marketing and Technical Director, said the demand for environmentally sustainable packaging has not been diminished. “We are now seeing increased competition and demand for recycled paper, like CupCycling, our breakthrough to upcycle discarded coffee cups and turn them into beautiful paperwork. This market comes from around the board in terms of sectors, “he said.
“Many companies have their very own sustainability goals, built by responding to the needs of their clients, which go above regulatory requirements. In the cosmetics and fragrance market, for instance, there is a rise in customer interest, not only within the sources of the materials that come into the items themselves, but also in the packaging itself.
In the meantime, Ireland-based PVC packaging giant Smurfit Kappa Group has found that, while being essential to companies and customers, sustainability continues to drive technology development during Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings of a study by Smurfit Kappa Group, undertaken in partnership with The Financial Times, showed that: “In the face of this confusion, leading companies […] are switching from global discussion to corporate intervention” in an attempt to stay relevant, with 83 per cent of enterprises identifying sustainability as a good business opportunity to be utilized and 72 per cent identifying sustainability as just a lasting trend.
Delta Global, a provider of packaging for “luxury” supermarket buyers, points out how packaging can also be used to create relationships with clients.
CEO and founder Robert Lockyer claims packaging would continue to “transcend its physical nature” to add value, such as via messaging, customer service, and socially minded programs.
“With safety issues and a widening physical gap between products and customers, customized communications are undoubtedly the only path forward if businesses are to restore loyalty and customer interest after this crisis. Printed URLs and scannable QR codes should be put on an object that will lead you straight to tailored ‘thank you’ notes from labels or styling advice manuals on the company’s site, “Lockyer recommends.
“Not only are these solutions far more environmentally conscious, these strategies would also guarantee retention and give loyal consumers an additional touchpoint to re-market and create long-term partnerships.”