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Plastic Bottoms Out List of Perceived Sustainability Among Consumers

Consumers across global regions ranked plastic as the least sustainable packaging material, and their self-reported habits reflect this.

Global consumers consider plastic the least sustainable packaging material.
Global consumers consider plastic the least sustainable packaging material.
PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Future of Packaging and Sustainability

Global consumers have a PET peeve against plastic.

That’s according to PMMI Business Intelligence’s 2022 report “Future of Packaging and Sustainability.” Plastic was at the bottom of the list of packaging types considered sustainable or better for the environment across nearly all global regions.

Less than 10% of consumers in Latin America, North America, and Europe consider plastic to be sustainable or better for the environment, the report says, citing the 2022 survey of 32,365 consumers, “Euromonitor International Voice of the Consumer Lifestyles Survey.”

About 12% of Asia Pacific consumers and about 23% of Middle Eastern and African consumers consider it sustainable.

The only region where another material is ranked lower than plastic is the Middle East and Africa, where 22% of consumers believe metal packaging is sustainable.Plastic is the lowest rated material for perceived sustainability among consumers.Plastic is the lowest rated material for perceived sustainability among consumers.PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Future of Packaging and Sustainability

A Push for Recyclability

Ironically enough, recyclable material, which can include certain plastic packs, tops the list of packaging considered to be sustainable or better for the environment across all regions in the same report.

Nearly 60% of Latin American consumers consider recyclable material to be sustainable, along with over 50% of North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. About 36% of Middle Eastern and African consumers consider recyclable material to be sustainable.

Also nearing the top of the list for perceived sustainability is biodegradable material. This category comes in second behind recyclable material in almost all regions, but more Latin American consumers (62%) consider biodegradable material to be sustainable than any other category in any region.

Categories like refillable or reusable packaging, paper, and compostable packaging fill the center of the list, leaning toward favorability among sustainability-minded consumers. Leaning toward the less favorable side of the list is glass, edible packaging, and bio-based packaging.

Right in the middle of the list is packaging with recycled content, with 28% and 39% of global consumers considering it sustainable or better for the environment. 

Plastic Reduction Habits Top the List for Green Consumers

Consumers don’t just talk the talk about their disdain for plastic; they walk the walk too.

Over half (56%) of consumers said they typically reduce plastic use to positively impact the environment and live more sustainably – more than any other reported habit.The majority of consumers say they reduce plastic use to positively impact the environment.The majority of consumers say they reduce plastic use to positively impact the environment.PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Future of Packaging and Sustainability

Also related to plastic packaging was a habit of recycling items, shared among 54% of consumers. About 44% of consumers also make an effort to use sustainable packaging in some way. 

Plastic-related habits topped the list of surveyed behaviors, sharing the top four spots only with reducing food waste, reported by 55% of consumers. 

This focus on plastic for sustainability beats out habits like reducing energy consumption (43% of consumers), using less water (42%), and repairing broken items instead of replacing them (40%), among several other sustainable habits.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Future of Packaging and Sustainability

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