How Covid affects the environmental impact of packaging.

How Covid affects the environmental impact of packaging.

For Italians, first comes hygiene and then packaging sustainability.

It looked as one of the hottest themes of the new decade, doomed to affect heavily all industrial strategies. Only a few months ago, people were interested in reducing wrapping and also in the quality of it – which is, by the way, not only a problem of conscience and environmental awareness, but it is something that affects heavily the familiar economy of recycling. Then Covid came and many things seem to have changed. 

Strategy consulting multinational McKinsey carried out a research among consumers about their purchase motivation. What stands out in the results is the route change on packaging. That is to say: in the Covid age sustainable wrapping is no longer a primary need. In the US as well as in Italy. Where 82 per cent of the people who had been interviewed by the multinational says that first of all they think about hygiene. And what about the environmental impact? It has become a problem that affects only 52 per cent of people involved in the survey.

The research – carried out in the US, in Italy and in other nine Countries with very similar results – ranges in every product category. The reasons are many. One is no doubt the fact that the sector of packaging has been under pressure during 2020, having to bear the burden of increasing production in order to cope with the increase of online purchase due to pandemics. And consumers seem to be no longer so demanding about the way the product they buy is packaged.

If we look closely at the results of the McKinsey research, 66 per cent of Americans who buys packaged food say they buy it because of the price, 46 per cent because of the perceived quality, 44 per cent for the brand, 30 per cent for convenience and only 24 per cent because of how the product is packaged. In order to find the answers “environmental and social impact” we have to go down to 13 and 11 per cent. About beverage, the trend seems to be almost the same – 11 per cent looks at the impact on environment, 9 per cent at the social one, while for 62 per cent what matters most is the price.

Up to now in Italy, luckily, the situation seems to be a little better. Here environmental impact still plays an important part in purchasing choices – for 52 per cent of consumers it is a prime concern. And if, as we said, 82 per cent considers hygiene as the first issue, particular attention deserves that 70 per cent who thinks the durability of wrapping is important and that 65 per cent who pay attention to label information. That is to say, to environmental and product certifications.

For sure, Covid changed the consumers’ habits. Before pandemics, wrapping sustainability was in constant growth and it was a milestone in the government policy of many countries. Now, it is clear that customers’ sensitiveness has changed – but it is not the time for the companies to stop or, even worse, to go back to the past. Future of packaging – above all for those who say to be looking for information about sustainable products – must go on towards recycled wrappings or recycled plastic.

A choice, that towards green oriented packaging, that Itlas had made long before the sanitary emergency and that it is still carrying on, with the well-known traditional boxes in recycled carton, together with 100 per cent recycled shrink wrap and 30 per cent recycled bubble wrap.

The Covid effect – first of all sanitary and economic uncertainty – generated a mix of new priorities that melt with former concerns. Just to be clear, the same consumer,  who no longer thinks thatt the impact of packaging is the first issue, is at the same time extremely worried about sea pollution (75 per cent), about waste production (72 per cent) and climate change (70 per cent). 

But today other things count more. Like, for example, hygiene – even in packaging. And so? So packaging producers are very busy in finding new solutions, of course sustainable ones.

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