Earth Needs Eco-Friendly Packaging, but Apparently Consumers Don’t Want to Pay For It

We constantly want the best for Earth and we try everything to minimize further damage to our planet. But some of us just can’t afford to always be eco friendly. A new study suggests that Canadians say they care about the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic packaging, but not enough to spend more money on the greener alternatives.

The researcher of the study, Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University professor, surveyed 1,014 Canadians online between May 13 and 18. The team tried to find out how much money people are willing to pay to deal with the problem of plastic, but it turned out that they’re not willing to pay more. “I was disappointed,” said Charlebois.

In the research, just over 87% respondents said that they considered the environmental impact of single-use plastic food packaging important and nearly 94% felt like they need to reduce the amount of plastic because they care about the planet. It’s good to know that there are a lot of people who are aware of the damage of single use plastic.

Read also: Plastic Rain: You Can Now Find Microplastic in French Remote Region

However, even though the percentage of respondents who believed that humanity needs to switch to a more eco-friendly alternatives, they don’t want to pay for extra money. There are only about 38% of respondents who were willing to pay more for items with biodegradable packaging. Around 83% said that they didn’t want to pay more than a 2.5% premium.

Charlebois said that because of this fact, manufacturers are not 100% when it comes to providing greener packaging or debut any product without plastic materials. He said that there are food industry startups which considered using compostable or biodegradable packaging, but that would increase the price by at least 15 to 20 percent.

Of course, if one compares it to the conventional, cheaper alternative in the same shelf, it makes the eco-friendly one uncompetitive. Consumers are more likely inclined to choose the cheaper one with plastic packaging.

Bento boxes that use plastic in Japanese convenience store. Photo by Martin Lewison Wikimedia Commons
Bento boxes that use plastic in Japanese convenience store. Photo by Martin Lewison Wikimedia Commons


Tony Walker, an assistant professor at the university and also one of the project’s researchers, said that education is important to combat this problem. He believed that in-store placards that show consumers that the extra money they spent on a product with green packaging helps to preserve wildlife or keep oceans clean.

Walker said that people who could develop or choose a less expensive plastic alternative would also play a role in this switch. For example, cardboard containers (usually used for takeaway food) are two cents cheaper per carton than Styrofoam containers. And if there were people who could make cheaper packaging alternatives, food distributors and grocery stores would surely switch to it in no time.

This reminds me of a policy/regulation in where I live. Government charged plastic bags very cheaply. But even so, a lot of people were against it and as a result, they stopped charging and let plastic bags roam free again. After a while the regulation is now back and stricter than before, which is a good thing. Hopefully the new regulation lasts.

takeaway meal that uses styrofoam, plastic wrap, and small plastic bag for the sauce. Work by Takeaway Wikimedia Commons
takeaway meal that uses styrofoam, plastic wrap, and small plastic bag for the sauce. Work by Takeaway Wikimedia Commons

Not something new

This finding might shock some people, but this fact is actually not something new and has been going on since years ago. An article in AdAge from 2012 reported similar thing. A Green Gauge survey by GfK found that even though there are 93% of consumers who have changed their behavior to conserve energy in their household, they’ve become less willing to pay for the eco-friendlier alternatives.

The survey found that there were percentage drops of consumers who are willing to pay more for eco friendly cars, biodegradable plastic packaging, energy-efficient light bulbs, electricity from renewable resources or clothing made of organic or recycled materials.

Though in this year survey, GfK found that it was marketers who were at fault. They were the ones that overhyped green products and made overly aggressive claims, drawing consumers farther from them. Diane Crispell, consulting director at GfK said, “You have this kind of heightened distrust. Consumers have become hypercritical. You see it with green and health claims.”

Read also: Should We Go Back And Use Leaves To Eat Again?

Economy, marketing, and green products

When it’s done right, eco friendly business is very lucrative. According to various data in 2012, sales of environmental-friendly products in the U.S. alone exceeded $40 billion last year. This includes $29.2 billion for organic food, more than $10 billion for hybrid, electric and clean-diesel vehicles, more than $2 billion on energy-efficient light bulbs and $640 million on green cleaning products

Because of the green campaigns done by company marketers, Crispell saw branching of the effect. There were committed, educated, consumers who were okay with spending more money on greener alternatives, while the others who were in the mainstream grew more skeptical. Crispell said that there were people who were motivated, but once the novelty had worn off for green products, people were evaluating them more and grew more critical.

In 2008, GfK found that 62% of their survey respondents said that they would pay more for a car that wouldn’t produce a lot of carbon emissions, but in 2012 only 49% remained that way. A decrease could be found in energy efficient light bulbs as well. 60% of respondents would pay more for them in contrast to respondents in 2008, which was 70%. Sales in organic food didn’t have that much of a difference with only 6% drop down, but the number could still grow.

We should have more banana leaf wrappings instead of the plastic ones like this traditional Thai food. Photo by Takeaway Wikimedia Commons
We should have more banana leaf wrappings instead of the plastic ones like this traditional Thai food. Photo by Takeaway Wikimedia Commons

Also, let’s not forget about companies who use eco-friendly labels just to make themselves profitable. We all know that more and more people are looking for greener alternatives, and bigger companies have started to do that. Sadly, there are some who just put labels so that more eco conscious people would buy from them.

For example, a big company is using only a small percentage of recycled plastic in their products but they put “using recycled plastic” label on the packaging, suggesting they fully use recycled plastic just to attract customers. Eco conscious consumers who are not aware of this fact would buy them immediately.

There are also sellers who market reusable products but they’re of crap quality that the buyers would end up spending more money because those supposedly green products can’t be used. If this kind of thing happens too often, consumers would be even more skeptical of green products and they’d go back to the conventional, traditional, good old single use plastic.

What’s your take on this situation? What’s the best solution? Tell us what you think in the comments down below.

Read also: Australia Has Decreased 80% Plastic Usage In Just 3 Months!




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.