Hot off the press
People pay more for packaging that incorporates paper
February 15, 2023
Consumers judge plastic packaging with additional paper to be more environmentally friendly than the identical plastic packaging without the paper, says a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
It is estimated that UK households throw away a staggering 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, averaging 66 items per household per week. Around 44% of our plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2021, but much of this is shipped abroad.
We know that people do want to make environmentally friendly product choices. But our perception of what is environmentally friendly may differ from what actually is good for the environment.
New research finds that consumers judge plastic packaging with additional paper to be more environmentally friendly than the identical plastic packaging without the paper.
Our “paper = good, plastic = bad” beliefs drive this bias, so packaging with a greater paper-to-plastic proportion is judged as more environmentally friendly.
This bias also impacts on product choice, and how much consumers are willing to pay for products. The research adds to other interesting findings which include:
- Packaging size (small vs large; single-serve vs multi-serve) impacts our perceptions of product efficacy;
- Graphic design of product packaging (pale vs bright colouring; high vs low image placement) influences our purchase intentions and willingness to pay;
- And presence of on-package labelling (eg low-fat; nutri-score food labels) seems to affect products’ purchase and consumption rates.
The researchers conclude that “…consumers may reward companies packaging products with unnecessary paper, showing higher willingness to pay and greater choice propensities for overpackaged items. Thus, it is important to develop interventions that can correct consumer perceptions of environmental friendliness and make them more likely to choose objectively environmentally friendly products”.
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