Product packaging should align with growing consumer demand for sustainability, says Southgate Packaging

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By Darren Smith, head of marketing at Southgate Packaging, one of Europe’s leading packing supplier

Smith: new generation of ‘conscious consumers’

As a result of the pandemic and the consequential boom in e-commerce, consumers have increased their interest and demand for sustainable packaging products. It is now a major factor in the decision making process as every day more and more consumers become aware of the environmental impacts of materials such as single-use plastic and synthetic fibres.  

This shift in mindset is creating a new generation of ‘conscious consumers’ – those that are choosing to shop with brands which they know are sustainable and influencing positive change. A recent global study for example revealed that consumers are four times more likely to purchase from, protect, and champion purpose-driven companies. 

Consumers are starting to carefully select the brands they use based on their environmental credentials, so much so that a recent global CSR report confirmed almost 70 per cent of online consumers would or might stop using a brand because of its social or environmental wrongdoing.

YouGov data reports that a third (33 per cent) of Brits now make a concerted effort to buy fewer goods that have packaging that can’t be fully recycled – a definite incentive for retailers to start reviewing the sustainable solutions available to them.

Alongside pressure from consumers for sustainable packaging, the retail industry will also be impacted by the looming introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT), planned to be introduced as a result of the estimated two million tonnes of plastic packaging being used each year. Taking effect from 1 April 2022, the new legislation will see a PPT applied to plastic packaging produced in, or imported into, the UK. Listed in the top five processors of plastic in Europe, the UK will be impacted greatly by the new tax. 

Industry and businesses will need to act now to avoid paying tax by ensuring they have a suitable product range available that adheres to the new packaging requirements, in that all packaging must contain 30 per cent recycled plastic. 

So, what can the retail industry do to combat this ever growing need for sustainable packaging solutions? Southgate, one of Europe’s leading packaging firms and pioneers in driving forward the sustainable packaging solutions message, explains that retailers must start by reviewing their supply chain – right from the start to the end user, to proactively seek out opportunities to introduce better or new eco-friendly options. Once complete, they can review where to invest in sustainable practices and find the right partners and suppliers to work with, preferably those which have aligned sustainability goals – all of which will be paramount to keeping consumers on side.  

Padded paper mailer

From a packaging perspective, Southgate has a growing supply of options for retailers looking to address the sustainability issue within their current packaging range.

Paper based sustainable products for example are becoming increasingly important in the campaign for sustainable packaging as paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Made from renewable resources and biodegradable, it is universally one of the most highly recycled materials. From Biodegradable Packaging List Paper Envelopes to Paper Mailing Bags and Paper Protective Sleeving – there are plenty of paper products available on the market. 

Southgate has just recently launched its Sustainable Flexible Paper Protective Sleeving. The flexible paper sleeve is 100 per cent recyclable, plastic free packaging. The additional benefit of using water-based glues means that it is also completely biodegradable. 

For additional support at either end of the sleeve, Southgate advises using Void Fill – another highly beneficial sustainable packaging solution. Void fill is an invaluable commodity in the packaging sector, acting as an added barrier to keep products safe in transit. Traditional forms of void fill include polystyrene foam peanuts and plastic bubble wrap. However, both products are incredibly hard to recycle and will end up in landfill taking centuries to degrade.

To address this issue, Southgate has introduced an innovative range of products which can be used as an alternative to void fill. For example, Air Pillows, which use less plastic material and cover a large surface area (making this product one of the most sustainable void fill alternatives), Shredded cardboard, which allows retailers to re-use cardboard waste as void fill, and Kraft Paper, which is fully recyclable and distinguished by its superior strength compared to other paper alternatives. 

In addition, offering compostable, paper and carbon neutral films will ensure that the consumer can responsibly dispose of packaging waste. Addressing how packaging can be recycled for the end user will also be key for retailers in showcasing the importance of sustainability. 

At Southgate, sustainability product innovation is of the utmost priority. The team is consistently striving to offer eco-friendly alternatives to its customers across a wide range of our products. Southgate uses the Green High Five recognition scheme, to highlight products that offer one or more of five criteria: sustainable, recyclable, reusable, biodegradable and waste reductive. This way brands can easily choose packaging they know falls within their own sustainability goals and promises to consumers. 

Looking ahead and reports predict that by 2040 e-commerce will represent over a third of all retail sales – it is imperative that retailers invest now in initiatives that accelerate the development of safer and more sustainable products and services. By leading the way, consumers will too be motivated to continue to make more purpose-driven, sustainable choices in their retail purchases.