The e-commerce sector is in its busiest period of the year, with millions of parcels delivered every day. But what do consumers really think about the green credentials of packaging and how can manufacturers improve their products?

One of the positive by-products of a booming e-commerce industry for the packaging sector is a rapid rise in demand for high quality packaging in a vast range of sizes – strong enough to withstand the bumps and knocks along the distribution chain but attractive enough to add value to a brand.

But while paper and card have peerless environmental credentials, other packaging materials are less eco-friendly, and many shoppers are now demanding that their purchases are delivered in more sustainable packaging. Not only that, consumers are prepared to pay for that sustainability.

Unpacking the data

A recent survey has found that when asked about the green credentials of packaging their products had been delivered in, 39% of internet shoppers described it as “not environmentally friendly”. This figure rose to 54% when shoppers were specifically asked about fashion items and 60% for the food and drink sector.

In the annual Unboxing study by Macfarlane Packaging, 28% of consumers said they would be prepared to pay more for greener packaging, a figure that increased to 33% for those buying health and beauty products. As well as improving the green credentials of packaging, the issue of overpackaging remains a problem, with 23% of respondents reporting too much packaging for their purchases.

“The public’s conscience is resulting in a demand for greener packaging”

“What we can see from the survey is that the public’s conscience is resulting in a demand for greener packaging,” says Laurel Granville, Marketing Director of Macfarlane Packaging. “And while there are improvements in other areas there is still work to do. Too much packaging remains a current focus and major challenge for retailers as they balance the need to ensure their product arrives undamaged while managing customer demands for more sustainable and appropriate packaging.”

Problem packaging

Another key issue for online shoppers is how easy the packaging is to actually open, with many people having trouble with over-complicated or high-strength packaging. A survey from DS Smith has recently revealed that British shoppers are spending a staggering 43 days of their life (19 minutes a week) struggling with difficult packaging.

According to the study, over a fifth  of the respondents (22%) said that it makes them feel defeated and a quarter report that they’ve ended up damaging or breaking the product itself. Key complaints about problem packaging include the use of materials that require a tool such as scissors (50%) to open, taking too long to get the product out of the packaging (30%), the use of too much sticky tape (30%), the boxes themselves being too tough to grip, hold, or carry (27%), or needing a screwdriver to open (22%).

“The rise of ecommerce is meant to make getting what you need easier than ever,” says Robyn Macdonald, Inclusive Design Lead at DS Smith. “But as this research shows, many brands and online shops are falling at the last hurdle: making the packaging easy to open. With Brits reporting issues with one in every six products, it’s this ignorance that’s hitting them in the pocket and potentially costing them billions of pounds.”

Article by Sam Upton

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