Plastic pollution is an issue that’s on nearly everyone’s minds. It’s hard to ignore when we see plastic bags floating in our rivers as ocean-bound plastic, littering our streets, and otherwise marring the natural environment. We’ve come to the point where, as a global community, we must come together in order to address this scourge.
As a business, you might wonder about your role in this new trend toward sustainability. We understand that profits are your primary concern—after all, it’s how you remain in business—and sustainable choices aren’t always the most cost-effective. In fact, part of the reason why plastic pollution is such a big issue is because it’s cheap to produce. You may want to help the environment, but you’re understandably concerned about what that would mean for your profit margins.
Luckily, plenty of others have wondered this as well, and there are multiple studies surrounding consumer attitudes toward single-use plastic. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve found.
Plastic pollution, especially plastics in our oceans, isn’t uncommon knowledge; plastic pollution and waste disposal are among the top 10 environmental concerns. Legislation banning certain plastic products—like plastic bags and plastic straws—have helped draw attention to this issue. It’s clear, then, that there is a level of concern among the general public when it comes to plastic pollution, but exactly how much?
In a Canadian report exploring how consumers feel about single-use plastics, an impressive 93% of those interviewed felt encouraged to minimize their use of single-use food packaging while 56% said that they actively seek food products without plastic packaging. Both groups cited environmental impact as their reason for this choice.
Another study showed that many people stay away from plastic packaging for health-related reasons; they don’t want plastics in direct contact with their food. Therefore, single-use plastics have a negative reputation not just for its pollution but for its chemical makeup as well.
Multiple reviews show that millennials and gen z tend to find these matters more important than those in older generations implying that aversion toward single-use plastics isn’t something that’s going to go away. In fact, it could be argued that, as the younger generations grow older and make more financial decisions, single-use plastic packaging is only going to become more important for companies to consider.
Additionally, the Canadian study reveals that people aren’t just mindful of their orphan plastic use, but they’re actively avoiding it. This means that companies must be proactive about their orphan plastic use and production in order to anticipate future shifts in consumer habits, which research shows is coming soon.
Will single-use packaging affect your profits and customer loyalty?
It’s clear that consumers view orphan plastics negatively, but how do they view the companies that produce and/or use single-use plastics?
Studies suggest that consumer concerns over single-use plastic waste and ocean-bound plastics are increasing, partially due to the media attention that this type of pollution receives. While some earlier studies showed that the public cares more about the brand and quality of the product than the packaging that it’s in, more recent studies are showing a shift in that attitude as consumers, especially millennials and gen z, are more concerned about single-use plastics to the point where their purchasing choices are affected by that.
According to a 2018 study, 88% of US and UK consumers are seeking brands that can make it easier for them to make environmentally friendly choices on a daily basis. 87% of consumers interviewed in a survey by Oceana believe that online retailers need to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use. Worldwide, it was found that 72% of consumers are investing in more sustainable products now than they did in the past, and 81% are planning to adjust their buying habits in the next five years to be more environmentally friendly.
These statistics suggest that, while consumer opinions are changing, business habits are not. “The push for plastic isn’t empathetic. It shows how disconnected companies truly are from the desires of their customers and the demands of the planet,” says Forbes.
There’s a disconnect between what customers want and what businesses provide in terms of plastic packaging and other single-use plastics. Until now, this hasn’t been too much of an issue; customers did their best to avoid single-use plastics, but they weren’t actively avoiding it, and their loyalty to a company wasn’t affected by it. However, we’re in the midst of a transition period, and if companies fail to adjust their business models to address consumers’ attitudes toward single-use plastics, customers will move their business to those who are paying attention to their needs.
Offering and producing single-use plastics might not seriously affect your business today, but consumer trends are showing that it could have a significant negative impact in the future. You must start making sustainable changes now so that your company doesn’t fall behind.
How to minimize your single-use plastics
Knowing that it’s important to reduce your company’s single-use plastic packaging is one thing; figuring out how to reduce plastic waste is another thing entirely. The reason for the prevalence of single-use plastics is that it’s cheap and convenient. We’ve yet to find an alternative that matches it. However, there are a few simple ways that you can address your single-use plastic waste without adjusting your business model too much.
One key way that many businesses, especially grocers, reduce their single-use plastic is by offering reusable bags rather than single-use plastic bags.
Food and delivery services can do their part by using as little plastic packaging as possible. The plastic packaging that can’t be avoided should be recyclable, and you can provide detailed instructions to your customers on how to recycle that plastic, encouraging responsible behavior.
Restaurants, coffee shops, and other such industries may offer discounts and other incentives to customers who bring in their own reusable coffee cups, water bottles, and other suitable items.
Finally, you can offset your current orphan plastic waste by investing in plastic credits through TONTOTON. We’ve eliminated 75 tons of orphan plastic waste in Vietnam so far, and we do so through co-processing—a zero-waste management system that eliminates plastic waste while providing an alternative source of energy.
It’s important to note that a truly sustainable business model should combine minimizing the plastic elements in production, using organic or recycled plastic in the base materials, and employing plastic credits when plastic use is unavoidable. Our fight against single-use plastic waste must be holistic and additional if we seriously want to address the plastic pollution problem.
Time and time again, we see that managing orphan plastic isn’t just the right thing to do for the environment, but it’s also essential for your business’ future profits and customer loyalty. If you’re not currently looking into ways that your company can be more sustainable, especially in regards to single-use plastic, then you’re already behind.