Celebration Packaging survey shows consumers confused over which materials best for environment when compared to plastic

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A recent survey by Sapio Research, conducted on behalf of Celebration Packaging, looked at consumer understanding of the bans on single-use plastic packaging, the alternative materials available and expectations around reusables.

“In our previous report on the findings of the survey, we looked at how over 50% of consumers expect a food-to-go outlet to provide cutlery, while 51% of consumers never, or rarely use reusable cutlery for eating on the go,” says Celebration Managing Director Nick Burton. “We concluded that takeaways are still going to have a requirement for single-use cutlery of some kind, despite the bans.”

“Here, we look at consumer understanding of alternative materials, sustainability and end of life options.” 

Material choices

When compared to plastic, the survey showed that 42% of consumers in the UK agree that wood is their most preferred type of cutlery, because it is sturdy (43%) and it is recyclable or compostable (42%).

Only 17% of respondents in the survey were aware of moulded fibre cutlery, otherwise sometimes called bagasse, as a viable alternative. While they described it as ‘environmentally friendly’ as it uses natural fibres, and found it to be sturdy, various comments were made about its characteristics. “I don’t like the feel of it and food sticks to it,” was one observation, while others were: “It is not as strong as plastic,” and “The texture is not smooth like plastic or metal.”

“In the survey, the preference expectations around bamboo and metal as reusable cutlery lead us to believe that consumers are yet to discover the benefits of bagasse cutlery alternatives,” says Nick Burton.

“When we established our EnviroWare® brand over 16 years ago, we set out to seek better and more sustainable packaging solutions, made from different materials which can be reused or recycled.”

Thinking about the environment

When asked to comment on the environmental impact of different materials, three in four (75%) felt that plastic cutlery is worst for the environment, while there is less consensus on which is the best. Around a quarter believe that metal (27%), wood (25%), or paper (23%) is best.

“It is important for consumers to understand the varying environmental impacts of different materials, but they also need to know if these materials are sustainably sourced,” says Nick Burton. “We always say: ‘look for the FSC® logo‘ to see if wood, paper or bamboo products are Forestry Stewardship Council certified.”

End of life

Understanding of how to dispose of different cutlery types differed widely. The survey shows that over a quarter (27%) of consumers in the UK don’t know how to dispose of moulded fibre cutlery, while nearly two thirds (63%) know that plastic cutlery should be recycled.

It is interesting that the understanding around whether materials are recyclable or compostable varies so much depending on the age group,” says Nick Burton. “Surprisingly, older people are more likely to prefer a material for being recyclable – 25% in the 18 to 24 group versus 58% in the over 65s. 43% in the 55-64 age group preferred materials for being ‘good for the environment’, but this fell to 20% for 18–24-year-olds.

“Celebration Packaging offers a wide range of options including EnviroWare® packaging made from compostable and recyclable materials. As a consultative business with many years’ experience in the sector, we can help outlets choose the most appropriate solutions which best match their business.”