Consumers are looking for both convenience and sustainability, and companies are responding with containers, bottles and bags designed for many uses.
Packaging is one of the largest causes of waste in the United States. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 29.7% of total waste could be attributed to containers and packaging in 2015, which weighed in at 77.9 million tons.
While some may point the finger at plastics, Tim Debus, president and CEO of the Reusable Packaging Association, told Food Dive that “the real root evil of the pollution is not material based. It’s disposability.”
Since the introduction of plastics into the CPG space, explained Debus, manufacturers have opted for more and more single-use packaging for its ability to reduce shipping costs.
Single-use plastic packaging is also an option that promotes convenience, something that consumers have progressively wanted more of over the decades.
All of this, however, comes at the expense of sustainability.
Demand for conveniently packaged options continues today, but consumers have increasing sustainability concerns. As a result, retailers and manufacturers have spent years searching for alternatives that reduce the quantity of waste sent to landfills.
From minimizing the amount of glass used in each bottle to switching to compostable bioplastic, packaging innovations are nothing new. What is new is the desire to combine sustainability with reusability.
“When you give the average person the choice between the most convenient option and the most sustainable options, more often than not, the more convenient option wins.”Toni Rossi, Vice president of global business development, Loop
Loop is an online delivery service where customers select their products and pay for the order (including a fully-refundable deposit on the reusable jars) and wait for it to be delivered in a reusable tote. Shipping is free after seven items are ordered. When the product is used up, customers replace the jars in the tote and wait for UPS to pick up their used containers and deliver their replacement order.
In searching for an innovative method to provide consumers with sustainable yet convenient packaging options, companies including Tyme Fast Food and TerraCycle’s Loop program, as well as retailers including PCC Community Markets have reimagined packaging as something reusable rather than disposable.
Reusable containers benefit the planet and companies’ bottom lines. The World Economic Forum reports plastic packaging waste represents an annual loss to the global economy of $80 billion to $120 billion.
Reusable options not only help alleviate that cost burden, but consumers are also willing to pay more to help solve the sustainability problem.
A new consumer culture?
A report from Packaged Facts shows households headed by adults younger than 25 are 29% more likely to consume microwaveable dinners and 26% more apt to eat frozen breakfast entrees or sandwiches.
Millennials, according to a report by UBS Investment Bank, are expected to drive food delivery sales up from $35 billion in 2018 to $365 billion worldwide in 2030.
Consumers’ preference for convenience has generated tons of trash as pre-packaged and delivery options become the norm. At the same time, these consumers don’t want to create waste.
To solve this dilemma, companies including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever and The Body Shop have signed onto initiatives that make reusable packaging convenient.
“When you give the average person the choice between the most convenient option and the most sustainable options, more often than not, the more convenient option wins,” Loop’s vice president of global business development Toni Rossi told Food Dive.
Rather than combat human nature and work to convince consumers that a little sacrifice now will pay off in the long run, Loop plays into the consumer search for an “easy” button, Rossi said.
“It’s a model of reusability, but it acts like single use. We’re not asking the consumer to do anything different than they would today,” he said.
This article was published on fooddive.com and written by Jessi Devenyns