Reusable Packaging is Catching on
3/30/2023 Insights Sustainability New Paths Industry Article

Reusable Packaging is Catching on

For 76 percent of people in Germany, recycling is the top preference when dealing with used packaging. 50 percent are in favor of reusable and refillable packaging. This is the result of a representative survey conducted by the Deutsches Verpackungsinstitut e. V. (dvi). The results were presented on March 30th in Berlin at the German Packaging Congress.

The dvi study asks consuments about packaging. The dvi study asks consuments about packaging.

A typical supermarket shopping trip: almost all the products in the shopping cart are packaged. What do customers think has the greater impact on the environment and climate on average: the packaging or the packaged product? Just over half think that the packaging has the greater environmental footprint. This is the result of a representative survey conducted by the German Packaging Institute (dvi).

Specifically, 50.5 percent believe that the packaging has a larger environmental footprint than the packaged product. Only 28.8 percent judge the ratio correctly, explains dvi Managing Director Kim Cheng. She presented the study at the German Packaging Congress. For example, in the case of food, on average around 97 percent of the environmental impact is in the packaged product. In contrast, the packaging is only responsible for around 3 percent of the eco-footprint, according to Cheng. In a representative survey conducted in March 2023, the dvi asked consumers about their preferences for handling used packaging, reusable packaging, and their assessment of the environmental footprint of packaging compared to the packaged product.

61 percent support current policy plans for more reusable packaging and are willing to take action towards their realization. According to the survey, the most important requirements include flexible return regardless of the place of purchase (72 percent), price stability (64 percent), and easy return (50 percent).
When asked how packaging should be dealt with after use, 76 percent of people vote for material reuse as part of recycling. 50 percent are in favor of refilling packaging after use wherever possible and reusing it several times. 24 percent welcome composting as a way to dispose of packaging. 15 percent also favor incineration for the purpose of energy generation. Only 2 percent favor landfilling or burial on land.

The result shows that “the majority of citizens are in favor of circular economy, recycling and the preservation of valuable secondary raw materials when dealing with used packaging. The high approval rate for reusable and refillable packaging is not a contradiction in terms. After all, reusable packaging should also be recycled at the end of its life cycle and become new packaging. The companies in the industry are working with great success and many innovations on increasingly material-efficient and recyclable packaging,” says Cheng.

It's one thing, she says, for many people to massively underestimate the environmental impact of the product and correspondingly grossly overestimate the impact of the packaging. "What's almost more striking in our eyes is that, as a result, many people also underestimate the ecological benefits of packaging," Cheng said. That's because the real ecological damage occurs primarily when food spoils, she says. “In that case all the resources and effort we put into it are pointlessly lost,” the dvi managing director emphasizes.

“Packaging protects our goods and therefore our resources, our climate and our environment. It is part of the critical infrastructure and secures our supply of everything we need for our lives on a daily basis.”

Packaging is not an end in itself, she says. The industry has a responsibility to make this principle of “small effort – big impact” much clearer.
In order to be able to determine the ecological benefits of packaging even more precisely than before, the dvi, together with other industry associations, has therefore commissioned a large-scale study on the subject of "Packaging's contribution to climate protection". The results are to be presented at the 9th Packaging Day on June 15th, Chen announces.