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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Megacity Dwellers See Packaging as Crucial Solution for Sustainable Future

Packaging has widely been recognized as a pathway to a sustainable future, but opinions around the critical actions needed to deliver circular outcomes in urban areas, particularly megacities (a metropolitan area with a total population over 10 million people), such as management of recycling, littering, waste and support for sustainable behavior and education, largely differ.

To bring clarity to the issue, Swedish sustainable packaging company BillerudKorsnäs has released the findings of its Consumer Panel 2017, a global study on packaging sustainability. The survey is the first in an ongoing initiative to measure people’s views on packaging sustainability and includes questions related to packaging’s role in society, how packaging can enable better solutions from an environmental point of view and different megacities' capability to support consumers in improving the sustainability of packaging. The questions are indicators of people’s understanding of the topic, whether they believe packaging can impact sustainability in general and their commitment to change.

Additionally, the Panel gives an indication of the basic dimensions of packaging sustainability: the starting points, potential focus areas and opportunities, key differences among cities and, through follow-up, the development over time within this important area of sustainable development.

BillerudKorsnäs utilized Net Positive Attitude (NPA) as a means of measuring consumer responses. The NPA is calculated as the share of consumers answering with the two most positive alternatives out of six, detracted with the share of consumers with the two most negative alternatives. A representative sample of 3,300 people between the ages of 18–65 participated from 16 cities: Berlin, Dahli, Jakarta, Cairo, Karachi, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Stockholm and Tokyo.

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With an average of 54.1 NPA, packaging sustainability was valued high by BillerudKorsnäs’s panel representing 16 different megacities around the world. These high scores indicate that most consumers have a positive attitude towards packaging as a potential problem-solver.

Consumers are ready for action.

One of the key findings from the survey was that consumers see their own role and participation in creating a sustainable future as critical. It identified a willingness to change behaviors regarding consumption, food waste and recycling, which offers brand owners and municipalities significant opportunities and highlights the need for change.

Empowering consumers pays off.

The survey also reveal that consumers are open to and asking for the support of municipalities and brand owners in developing new, innovative ways to drive sustainable packaging. Organizations and local governments ready and willing to rise to the challenge are expected to benefit from improved consumer opinion and preference and price premiums for sustainable packaging solutions.

Asia is ready for change.

Asia demonstrated the strongest desire for change and a strong belief in packaging. Consumers in the region that systems and solutions for recycling and managing food waste are lacking, presenting an opportunity for significant impact within a short timeframe. The exception was, however, Tokyo, where consumers do not believe that improved packaging can make a difference in accelerating sustainability.

In Europe, the city index was higher than the personal index, implying that consumers feel that their cities are doing well, but that there is still a lot to be done on the individual front and by brand owners. North America scored evenly on the personal and city levels, meaning that Americans have a positive personal attitude towards packaging sustainability and their own contribution, while the cities manage recycling and packaging information in a manner that lives up to the requirements of urban dwellers.

“When interacting with our panels globally, we got excited over the interest and understanding for packaging sustainability most of them had,” said Jon Haag, Director of Consumer Insights at BillerudKorsnäs. “There is a strong momentum for brands and retailers to show how their packaging brings sustainable benefits. Over and over again the consumers ask for more fun and rewarding recycling as well as packaging that further reduce food waste. We now know better where to start packaging development and that many stakeholders should do it jointly with us — brand owners, city mayors and recycling companies to name a few.”