This is drastic – ditch the plastic

More than half of UK shoppers say they are so concerned about packaging that they want retailers across the spectrum to start making major changes to the way they operate. The changes  shoppers want go from ditching ‘unnecessary’ plastic at the point of purchase, to how they are encouraged to take shopping home from store or how it is carried over the last few yards to their front doors, according to a new independent study commissioned by cardboard campaign group, Beyond the Box.

The nationwide study of more than 2,000 shoppers – commissioned to celebrate the Beyond the Box campaign’s first full year of campaigning – found six out of 10 shoppers (58%) were worried about packaging in general, with a similar number (54%) demanding that plastic bags should be banned from being sold in supermarkets, and 56% wanting plastic bags to be outlawed from use in online deliveries.

Earlier this year (see picture), Beyond the Box created a huge corrugated cardboard sculpture depicting the Ancient Greek figure, Atlas, and his fabled globe, to mark Global Recycling Day. Crafted from 420 layers of double flute corrugated cardboard, the impressive seven-foot, 80kg sculpture took 175 hours to create.

“A well-known symbol of Greek mythology, Atlas was responsible for bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders,” says Andy Barnetson, spokesperson for Beyond the Box. “The new cardboard creation was revealed as a stark reminder that this responsibility now rests with us all. Clearly shoppers agree!”

In the new survey almost two thirds (63%) said they felt supermarkets should provide free cardboard boxes at tills to carry their shopping home in instead, and more than half (56%) claimed they would prefer to shop in supermarkets offering plastic-free aisles.

Contrary to perceptions that younger people may be taking the closest interest in environmental issues, the research found that more than six out of 10 (61%) Britons aged 55 and over were worried about packaging, compared with 55% of those aged 16-24.

The findings also come as packaging continues to be put under the media spotlight including in the new BBC One series War on Plastic, fronted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani, which has estimated that the UK’s 27.2 million households contain a combined 19.5 billion items of single-use plastic.

Among all shoppers surveyed nationwide, seven out of 10 (69%) said they were annoyed by shops selling fresh produce wrapped in plastic, two out of three (66%) became irritated when their favourite products come in non-recyclable packaging, and a similar number (62%) disliked being sold products in plastic trays.

More than half (57%) of shoppers would also like supermarkets, high street shops and online stores to reduce plastic in all parts of the supply chain, whilst half (49%) now felt better educated about the benefits of sustainable materials like cardboard. Despite this, the study also showed that one in five of those surveyed (19%) mistakenly believed that plastic was biodegradable, whilst three out of 10 (31%) believed it was made from renewable resources.

“This new independent research clearly shows that shoppers are now keen for retailers and manufacturers to explore alternatives beyond the status quo, be it by introducing more unpackaged produce or products that come in more sustainable types of packaging,” explains Andy Barnetson. “We are already seeing how sustainable and recyclable materials like corrugated cardboard can provide a great alternative for retailers in terms of both packaging and throughout stores – for example to house loose fresh produce – and this is clearly going down very well with shoppers, who are taking greater interest in the materials being used throughout the supply chain. As new technologies come on board, it is inevitable that we will continue to see an increase in the number of uses and recycling rates for materials like corrugated cardboard, but there is also a great opportunity for retailers of all shapes and sizes to start making simple changes, such as housing more fresh produce in corrugated cardboard and re-using empty cardboard boxes for shoppers to carry their shopping home.”

Beyond the Box

Bringing together experts from leading UK packaging companies, Beyond the Box, launched by the Confederation of Paper Industries, helps Britons learn more about the nation’s sustainable packaging choice: Cardboard.