Sustainable Packaging and COVID-19
As the year 2019 came to a close, brands in the food and beverage industry were setting some truly ambitious goals relating to sustainability. Warnings from experts such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum forecasted that the world’s oceans would contain by weight more plastic than fish by 2050. This projection shocked the industry into action, creating a common aim to reduce the negative impacts of packaging on the environment.
This push to change paused as 2020 introduced a much more immediate crisis — the COVID-19 global pandemic. Online shopping and food delivery became the safest options for consumers, leaving many suppliers with no choice but to up the use of its less-environmentally-friendly materials to meet demand.
Last year we saw urgent calls for the reduction of single-use plastics in restaurants, supermarkets, and packaging. Large companies like Tesco, Asda, Nestlé, and PepsiCo introduced goals to halve or even completely eliminate non-recyclable packaging or offer completely compostable or biodegradable packaging.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has shifted consumers’ priorities to safety and social distancing, as shoppers veer toward packaged, less sustainable options to avoid food or products that have already been handled, or potentially coughed upon, by fellow shoppers, according to The Grocer.
“Due to coronavirus, there’s an increased awareness [of] hygiene measures and thus an increasing demand for protection,” says Joost van Dun, circular economy lead at ING.
There still remains plenty of support for sustainable packaging alternatives. An FMCG Gurus survey found that 55 percent of people globally are now even “more concerned” about the environment as a result of COVID-19 — shoppers are just less likely to act on those good intentions.
“Plastic went from being a hero to a villain in the past 12 years. But during coronavirus, it went back from villain to hero,” Susan Hansen, global strategist for supply chains at Rabobank, said. “Consumers want it back for hygiene reasons, people feel it’s safer.”
Consumers are not the only ones concerned with safety. In fact, a number of retailers have temporarily suspended their sustainability efforts in order to better protect the health and safety of their employees. Starbucks, Pret a Manger, and Caffè Nero have stopped the use of reusable cups, instead choosing disposable cups exclusively in the name of safety.
COVID-19 has been a new, daunting obstacle for the switch to sustainable packaging, but many packaging manufacturers stress that this is just a blip on the road toward sustainability. Organizations like Amcor, Smurfit Kappa, DS Smith, and more remain committed to environmentally responsible materials and processes, encouraging their peers to do the same.
“The pandemic has brought our attention back to the important things in life – how we protect our health, our families and our world. We need to keep up the momentum on drastically reducing how much single-use plastic we use so we can protect our environment and wildlife – our birds, seas and rivers, valued even more highly since lockdown,” Greenpeace plastics campaigner Nina Schrank said.
Since its start in 1984, Golden Arrow has always had a goal of creating innovative packaging and printing solutions while also reducing negative environmental impact. With completely sustainable materials and zero-waste production processes, we have luxury packaging solutions that help to make the world a greener place. Learn more at www.goldenarrow.com/sustainability2