Consumers to Beverage Packagers: Recycling Is Still No. 1

Although 56 percent of consumers cite recycling as a critical issue, many are not recycling at work or away from home, according to the survey. Photo: Flickr/ksheehan

According to a recent BeveragePulse study on consumer attitude and purchasing behavior, environmental concerns have a major impact on consumer packaged beverage purchases and consumption.

“Environmental Concerns: The Impact on Beverage and Package Decisions” surveyed 500 respondents in order to gauge these attitudes.

When asked the most important environmental concerns when it comes to packaged beverages, “recycling” was cited most frequently at 45 percent, with “landfill issues” following at just under 20 percent.

The majority of respondents (56 percent) indicated that recycling rate or recycled content is the most important attribute of a sustainable or environmentally friendly package, with “made from renewable resources” following at slightly more than 20 percent.

“Our research shows that consumers think about the environment when they are making beverage purchases; specifically, the findings indicate that consumers relate positively to packages that are easy to recycle,” says Founder Bob Falkenberg. “Beverage companies should start a full court press on recycling.”

As the report points out, much has been written about the decline in sales of bottled water due to environmental concerns. To understand this better, respondents were asked about environmental concerns in the bottled water industry.

Thirty-five percent responded that addressing environmental issues and sustainability is more important for bottled water than for other packaged beverages.

On the other hand, in regards to carbonated soft drinks and other packaged beverages, “better for my health” and “lower prices” dominated the responses when asked “what would make you most likely to buy more?” For the same question, “better for the environment” was the most frequent response for bottled water.

Packaged material perception is an interesting factor to look at when studying consumer behavior. In general, respondents clearly indicated glass bottles and aluminum cans were best for the environment, with plastic bottles trailing at No. 3.

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  1. Reduce and reuse is the answer if we want to save the planet. Before plastic was the preferred packaging method for beverages, reusable glass containers were used. Now we pull 150 million barrels of oil out of the ground just to deliver beverages to consumers annually. The single use plastic packaging only sees 20% recycled with the balance ending up in landfill, waterways etc.. The clever beverage producers let the municipalities pay for the blue box recycling programs.

    In the end the consumer pays for the convenience of the single use plastic package. It is time to inform the consumer as to the true cost of plastic and demand a return to reusable beverage packaging.

  2. Sorry Rob, it’s not quite as simple as that. You need oil to heat the sand etc to make the glass bottles, you need oil to drive the trucks that deliver them to the filling plant and then on to the supermarket, you need oil to take the bottles back to the filling plant and to heat the water to clean them thoroughly (you have to assume that some idiot has put weedkiller in every bottle) – and then you have to get rid of the effluent. Glass is heavier than plastic, so you get fewer bottles on a truck – which means more vehicle movements, more traffic congestion, more oil consumption. Refillable bottles have a more complicated logistics route than recyclable bottles, so again, more traffic congestion and more oil consumption.

    Refillable bottles work well when you’ve got short distribution distances and you can be sure of getting the vast majority of your bottles back, and I’m not saying that plastic is always better than glass. What I am saying is that you have to look at the resource costs of the total production and distribution system, not just one part of it, and the most resource-efficient packaging for one situation isn’t necessarily the most resource-efficient for another.

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