Resource Use

Price the main motivator for use of reusable packaging schemes, Hubbub finds

Environmental charity Hubbub has today (28 June) launched ‘Reuse Systems Unpacked’ – a report highlighting the challenges and opportunities for reusable food and drink packaging systems. Findings pointed to price as the main motivator in consumer use of reusable packaging schemes, and hygiene and convenience as barriers.

Reuse SystemsLaunched at The Royal Society of Arts, the report provide recommendations on how reusable packaging systems can work, and what needs to happen for such systems to be used by consumers and become mainstream.

Funded by Bunzl plc, Hubbub’s research involved interviews with 40 organisations and individuals in the sphere of reusable food and drink packaging, from start-ups and small-scale trials to big brands and events, as well as people in the fields of policy, academia and logistics, including Tesco, DEFRA, Just Eat and Abel & Cole.

Hubbub also commissioned polling across the UK to gather public opinion on the motivators and barriers to individuals engaging in reuse systems for food and drink packaging.

Surveying 3,000 people, the report found that 67 per cent of people want to reduce the amount of single-use packaging they use when buying food and drink. 73 per cent believe more should be done to ensure using reusable alternatives is easier, with 67 per cent also ‘open to borrowing and returning a reusable container for groceries’.

Price was found to be the main motivator for using reusable packaging schemes, with two out of five people revealing that they would use one if it were no extra cost. Earning rewards or discounts for using a scheme, ​​as well as knowing that it reduces waste and is better for the environment than single use packaging, would encourage 38 per cent of the public.

Barriers against adopting the scheme consisted of concerns that reusable packaging might not be clean or hygienic (38 per cent), concerns that reusable packaging costs more money (31 per cent),and being put off by having to carry or store the packaging until it can be returned (27 per cent).

Hubbub has identified 10 key recommendations to help reuse systems set up and scale:

  1. Convenience: minimise the friction points and fit into people’s current patterns of behaviour.
  2. Keep the price down: the price needs to be as close as possible to single-use.
  3. Choose the right incentives: they play an important role to encourage use and returns, but deposits can put people off and rewards can lead to over-complication.
  4. Logistics: innovation is needed here, such as creating centralised logistics networks in cities, backhauling through existing systems and developing new washing processes.
  5. Packaging design: clever design is about more than aesthetics; it integrates tech, encourages returns and reduces the environmental footprint of packaging and transport.
  6. Lifecycle analysis: a consistent process needs to be established to work out the environmental impact of reuse systems in a way that's accurate and comparable.
  7. Collaborate: a system working across multiple brands, locations and platforms will be more convenient and less confusing for users.
  8. Role of tech: tech can simplify payments, deposit refunds, rewards and tracking usage, but it can complicate the user journey and put off some audiences.
  9. Reassurance: the public have concerns around hygiene which can be addressed through a robust washing process supported by good communications.
  10. Policy: a range of potential policies, standards, incentives and subsidies would support the growth of reusable systems.

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said: “To effectively tackle the issue of packaging waste, reuse must become mainstream. For this to happen, it’s crucial that companies across the food & drink industry, along with policymakers, work together and learn from each other.

“The ‘Reuse Systems Unpacked’ report is the first of its kind and brings together the findings from existing schemes and systems, along with insight into public attitudes towards reusable packaging. It’s clear the public are hungry for change.

“We hope this report helps to accelerate progress across the food and drink industry and drives us quickly towards a society where reusable food and drink packaging is the norm.”

James Pitcher, Head of Sustainability at Bunzl plc, added: “It’s been a long-held mantra of Bunzl that the life of packaging does not end at the point of sale and our ambition doesn’t either.

“We have been using our scale and unique position at the centre of the supply chain to work with our customers and suppliers to lead the industry towards a more sustainable approach to packaging.

“To move away from a linear mindset to a more circular one we need to understand the opportunities and challenges involved, which is why we’re pleased to have supported this work.

“The circular economy has to go mass market to be effective and research like this means we’ll understand what’s collectively required to reach a macro-solution sooner.”