29 November 2018

Consumers favour biodegradable plastic solutions, according to major survey

A survey commissioned by the European Union-funded project CIRC-PACK has shed light on the habits and expectations of some 10,000 European consumers vis-à-vis plastics and plastic packaging. The results were revealed yesterday in a special circular packaging workshop at the CONAMA environment congress in Madrid (Spain).

Citizens of Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the Istanbul district of Kartal (Turkey) were all quizzed on plastic-related habits and preferences in a recent survey commissioned by CIRC-PACK and conducted by Spanish consumer organisation OCU.

Unveiled yesterday at CONAMA 2018 in Madrid, major findings from the survey say that:

  • for day-to-day items (food, detergents, care products), consumers are less concerned by the environment than by price and quality;
  • some 30 per cent of consumers always or almost always find packaging on products that don’t need it;
  • the level of waste separation in European homes is good – but not in Croatia and Kartal where citizens feel less well informed;
  • products packaged in biodegradable plastic are more attractive than those in bio-based or recycled packaging.

According to the survey – conducted from November 2017 to January 2018 – the most common reasons for Europeans not sorting household waste, or not doing it better, are a lack of space at home for separate containers, or distance to waste collection points.

The survey uncovered disparities among countries’ sorting habits. In Italy, some 90 percent of respondents are “very careful with the segregation of household plastics”, with Belgium also doing well (80 percent of citizens). In contrast, only 50% of Croatian respondents were very careful with plastic sorting, and inhabitants of Istanbul’s Kartal district even less so (20 percent of respondents).

When it comes to plastic packaging, Europeans are still buying packaged products, even though consumers find that: packaging is unnecessary - 30 percent of respondents; plastic is difficult to compress - 37 percent of respondents, or; plastic is impossible to reuse - 57 percent of respondents.

But what do we think of new plastic materials – those that are bio-based or biodegradable?

Since these materials are not yet widespread in supermarkets and high street shops, it is understandable that the majority of respondents don’t consider them to be their first packaging option for daily use. Italy is an exception, however, where the majority of consumers do opt for biodegradable alternatives.

But given the option, respondents prefer to buy products packaged in biodegradable plastic ahead of bio-based or recycled plastics.
And among all the products which CIRC-PACK is developing, the solution with the most public acceptance is the biodegradable packaging used for coffee capsules – except in Croatia and Kartal district, where this type of product is used less frequently than in the other countries surveyed.

For more information and a run-down of the survey results, watch the video.

Next week, the CIRC-PACK website will feature an in-depth interview on the survey results with OCU’s Belén Ramos.