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Retailers are aware of the environmental concerns caused by packaging. However, eliminating plastic is not the total solution.
In a recent survey, 71.4% of consumers said that they want food and grocery retailers to be more eco-friendly. In other words, today’s customers are more aware of environmental concerns and want shops and businesses to reduce their impact.
The ever-increasing environment awareness among consumers has prompted many major retailers to reduce plastic usage. Some retail stores are using paper bags for loose fruit and veggies while some are using recyclable plastic packaging.
Is “zero plastic” possible?
While most retailers are thinking about eliminating plastic packaging, it may not be feasible for them unless a powerful alternative is discovered. Plastic perhaps makes up most of the waste that goes into the ocean or dumped into landfills every year. However, the target of “zero plastic” isn’t realistic. Plastic is counted among the most flexible and durable packaging ideal for storing and transportation. Besides, it is great for branding.
However, it is worth to mention that many major brands like Nestlé, Unilever, The Body Shop, Procter and Gamble and PepsiCo have announced a reusable and refillable packaging model. Walmart has also announced that it is looking to reduce the packaging waste generated by its private labels with the goals of achieving 100% recyclable or compostable packaging for its private brands by 2025.
Some companies are launching their products without packaging. For example, Lush, a skincare brand, has launched Lush Naked Shops where they sell packaging-free products like shops. This new packaging concept has been termed as “Nude” packaging.
Humankind has gone one step further as they refill the products like deodorant, shampoo, and mouthwash of their customer once they are emptied. It means that customers have to buy those plastic packaging or container one time. This way, the company is minimizing the use of plastic.
Eliminating Plastic Only Can’t Serve the Purpose
It’s not only the plastic that impacts the environment. A better way to consider the environmental impact of materials is to look at the entire system, from manufacturing, transportation to warehousing.
For example, many companies want to use glass as a potential substitute, but the product also leaves a carbon footprint. The glass manufacturing process involves the furnaces being fired with fossil fuels, consuming more energy than the energy being consumed by the plastic. Then, when a glass is transported, it’s heavy, which simply means that it impacts the environment.
Glass isn’t an evil product, either. Both plastic and glass materials are important.
The Case is More Complicated at E-Commerce Store:
The packaging seems to be an inseparable part of eCommerce. While a customer can decide on packaging while shopping at a physical store, online shoppers don’t see packaging. They instead get a view of the final product and make their buying decision.
In an e-commerce scenario, the role of the packaging in encouraging the customers to buy the product is not nearly as important. The role of packaging is to protect the product from damages during shipping.
Here Amazon deserves a pat on their back. The e-commerce company is trying to ship the products on its inventory in more streamlined packaging. Amazon has started shipping in recyclable boxes that are easy to option and free of excess materials like hard plastic clamshell cases, wire ties and plastic bindings. It eats up less space in shipping containers and boxes, making shipping more efficient. It translates into the reduction in the consumption of greenhouse gases and fuels.
To conclude, eliminating plastic from retail packaging is not an easy goal. However, consumers can play a big role in this scenario. For example, the can reuse or re purpose the plastic packaging they get.