Consumer confusion over food packaging disposal being cleared up thanks to new research

Consumers can be more confident in packaging disposal thanks to a new campaign to help demystify food packaging.

A new project InFormPack funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT Food) will make it easier for consumers to make right packaging disposal choices. A team of researchers, businesses and authorities in Europe will be creating new campaigns to raise awareness and enable the public to improve their disposal patterns at home and on the go.

Researchers from the University of Reading and Aarhus University along with other European industry partners and research institutes surveyed 500 participants in the UK and Greece to understand the challenges they face in relation to both their choice and disposal of food packaging.

Researchers found that in both countries, people are generally confused about the disposal of food packaging, lack understanding of packaging logos, and do not understand the importance of packaging in fruits and vegetables. When it comes to recycling, questions such as: “Is it worse, if I put unclean packaging in the recycling, or is it worse if I do not recycle it at all?” were frequently asked.

Dr Niki Alexi from the Department of Food Science at Aarhus University said:

“This is a question frequently asked by the consumers in our study, but there are many more questions that need to be answered and information gaps to be addressed.”

Dr Bola Oloyede, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Reading said: “Concerns about overpackaging of fruit and vegetables come from justifiable fears for our environment. However, the InFormPack project shows how misunderstanding about food packaging and recycling are undermining drives to make packaging disposal sustainable, and everyone has a part to play to make food packaging disposal more sustainable and easier.”

Based on the results of the survey, three prominent packaging themes emerged:

  • packaging icons
  • cleaning of packaging before recycling
  • fresh fruits and vegetables packaging.

Different campaigns have been created using two different formats of communication (video and infographics) and are currently being tested to evaluate their impact on consumer behaviour regarding packaging disposal.

Dr Stella Lignou, Associate Professor of Sensory and Consumer Science said: “The preliminary results of the campaigns’ impact on consumer behaviour are very promising and we are very excited for the future. We believe these results would lay a good foundation for a multi-year-long research project covering more countries”.

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