The key motivating factors to convice consumers to use reusable packaging when purchasing grocery items are: no extra costs, incentives, and environmental concerns.
That is according to a reusable packaging report published and presented to the food industry this week by environmental group, Hubbub, which lists the main barriers to usage as hygiene concerns, price, and lack of convenience.
Hubbub revealed its in-depth report at The Royal Society of Arts in the presence of key players in the sector, on Tuesday. It provides recommendations on how reusable packaging systems can work and what needs to happen for such systems to be used by consumers and become mainstream.
The research was funded by distribution and outsourcing company, Bunzl, and involved in-depth interviews with 40 organisations and individuals in the reusable food and drink packaging ecosystem. Start-ups and big brands were consulted, as were those in fields of policy, academia and logistics. Representatives from companies and organisations such as Tesco, DEFRA, Just Eat and Abel & Cole contributed to the narrative.
Here are the top ten recommendations, in the words of Hubbub:
- Convenience is key: minimise the friction points and fit into people’s current patterns of behaviour
- Keep the price down: the price needs to be as close as possible to single-use
- Choose the right incentives: they play an important role to encourage use and returns, but deposits can put people off and rewards can lead to over-complication
- Integrate logistics: innovation is needed here, such as creating centralised logistics networks in cities, backhauling through existing systems and developing new washing processes
- Be smart with packaging design: clever design is about more than aesthetics; it integrates tech, encourages returns and reduces the environmental footprint of packaging and transport
- Understand the lifecycle analysis: a consistent process needs to be established to work out the environmental impact of reuse systems in a way that’s accurate and comparable
- Collaborate: a system working across multiple brands, locations and platforms will be more convenient and less confusing for users
- Consider the role of tech: tech can simplify payments, deposit refunds, rewards and tracking usage, but it can complicate the user journey and put off some audiences
- Offer reassurance: the public have concerns around hygiene which can be addressed through a robust washing process supported by good communications
- Support through policy: a range of potential policies, standards, incentives and subsidies would support the growth of reusable systems.
Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said: “To effectively tackle the issue of packaging waste, reuse must become mainstream.
“For this to happen, it’s crucial that companies across the food & drink industry, along with policymakers, work together and learn from each other.”
James Pitcher, head of sustainability at Bunzl, added: “To move away from a linear mindset to a more circular one we need to understand the opportunities and challenges involved, which is why we’re pleased to have supported this work.
“The circular economy has to go mass market to be effective and research like this means we’ll understand what’s collectively required to reach a macro-solution sooner.”
[Image credit: Hubbub]