New data from responsible packaging provider Amcor has revealed that just over four in five (84%) European consumers now say that they check recycling instructions before buying a product, and over half state that local recyclability instructions and logos influence their purchase decisions[i]. Amcor’s latest research, conducted in November last year, is an update on a similar investigative piece conducted in 2020. In this latest edition, the company surveyed more than double the number of consumers at 3,189 respondents in total, and sampled six markets (UK, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Poland), compared with just five in the previous research- with Poland being the new addition. Their findings suggest that since 2020, the recyclability of packaging has changed from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’.
For instance, since the first edition of the research in 2020, awareness of recyclability logos and instructions has grown notably, particularly in the UK, where understanding of the logos has increased from 86% in 2020 to 94% today. France and Italy also show high levels of understanding at 89%, with the latter increasing from just 56% in 2020. The study also observed growth in the impact of recyclability on purchase decisions, where all five nations surveyed in 2020 displayed an increase in the proportion of respondents saying that local recyclability instructions/logos influence their purchase decision when buying a product.
This was seen to be highest in Poland at 69%, the UK at 67% (54% in 2020), and Italy at 65% (64% in 2020). Interestingly the study also revealed significant changes in environmental concerns over the past two years. When asked which environmental issue they were most concerned about, consumers were more likely to state global warming, now at 52% overall, than they were in 2020 (45%). The opposite was observed for plastic pollution; this has fallen as the most concerning environmental issue for consumers, decreasing from 32% in 2020 to just 21% in 2022.
With a Europe-wide average of 84% checking recyclability instructions, the researchers argue that this heightened engagement demonstrates why brands and retailers must prioritise recyclability in their packaging strategies. Gerald Rebitzer, sustainability director, Amcor EMEA, said:
“As consumers become more aware of the environmental implications of their purchasing decisions, is it vital that consumer-facing brands and retailers take action.” He added: “Adopting more sustainable packaging – such as moving to recycle-ready solutions and including post-consumer recycled content in place of virgin resources – are key for brands to demonstrate their commitment to drive circularity, reduce their carbon footprint, and help consumers buy more sustainably.”[ii]
In fact, when asked which statements would positively influence their decision when buying a product, 41% of consumers said compostable packaging, ahead of packaging made of recycled materials (34%) and paper-based packaging (30%). However, the study found that consumers are less familiar with specific terminology, such as PCR (post-consumer recycled) or PIR (post-industrial recycled) content, displaying a need for education or clarification. Where understanding is strong, consumers are more likely to purchase. This can be seen with paper, for example, which was the third most likely sustainability claim to influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. Amcor argues that this shows the availability of recycling opportunities as well as the understanding within Europe as to how to dispose of the material. The responses, it suggests, align with the EU’s draft Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), where a key target is for all packaging to be designed to be recyclable (e.g. recycle-ready) by 2030 (2035 for healthcare packaging).
Lauren has extensive experience as an analyst and market researcher in the digital technology and travel sectors. She has a background in researching and forecasting emerging technologies, with a particular passion for the Videogames and eSports industries. She joined the Critical Information Group as Head of Reports and Market Research at GRC World Forums, and leads the content and data research team at the Zero Carbon Academy. “What drew me to the academy is the opportunity to add content and commentary around sustainability across a wealth of industries and sectors.”