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U.S. consumers believe paper packaging is better for the environment: Two Sides survey

June 10, 2021  By PrintAction Staff

A new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America, and conducted by international research firm Toluna, found that U.S. consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other packaging materials.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, plastic, glass and metal) based on 15 environmental, esthetic and practical attributes. Overall, paper/cardboard packaging was preferred for 10 of the 15 attributes, with half of respondents saying paper/cardboard is better for the environment. Consumers also preferred paper/cardboard packaging on other environmental attributes, including being home compostable (65 per cent) and easier to recycle (44 per cent).

Glass packaging was preferred by consumers for four practical and esthetic attributes, including being
reusable, having a preferred look and feel, providing a better image for the brand and better protection. Forty-five per cent preferred metal packaging for being strong and robust. Plastic packaging was not preferred for any of the 15 attributes, but was ranked second for six attributes. Only one in 10 respondents believe plastic packaging is better for the environment.


The survey found that 49 per cent of consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, and 39 per cent would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging.

“It’s important for consumers to understand that just because packaging is recyclable does not mean it actually gets recycled,” explains Two Sides North America president Kathi Rowzie. “Around 66 per cent of all paper and paper-based packaging and nearly 89 per cnet of corrugated cardboard gets recycled into new products in the U.S. These high recycling rates and expected increases are due to the paper industry’s already completed and continuing investment in recycling infrastructure, which between 2019 and 2023 will exceed $4 billion. In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection reports that plastics, glass and metals are recycled at just nine per cent, 25 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively.”

When consumers were asked who has the greatest responsibility for reducing the use of non-recyclable, single-use packaging, more than a third (36 per cent) said individuals have the primary responsibility, followed by 23 per cent who believe it’s up to brands and retailers, 23 per cent who believe it’s up to packaging manufacturers, and 18 per cent who believe it’s the government’s responsibility.

The survey, Paper’s Place in a Post-pandemic World, queried a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older across the United States in January 2021.

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