How packaging design impacts Christmas recycling behaviour

How packaging design impacts Christmas recycling behaviour
© iStock/kbwills

Packaging design has an impact on whether consumers keep up Christmas recycling according to a new study.

The study was conducted by researchers at CTF, Service Research Center at Karlstad University, Sweden and assesses how packaging design influences consumer behaviour in terms of Christmas recycling.

How does packaging design influence the user?

Helén Williams, Lecturer in Environmental and Energy Systems, who led this study, said: “If the package consists of several different materials that have to be separated, or need to be rinsed, the handling time and hence the resistance to sorting increases. Uncertainty about how to clean or sort the packaging also plays a role. One example is the plastic lid on the milk carton packaging. Should the lid stay on the packaging or should the entire plastic part be torn off?”.

Many of the study’s participants stated that they were concerned about sabotaging the system for the recycled materials. This mean that they chose to throw the packaging in the normal waste bin when they were unsure.

Why tracking Christmas recycling is important

Williams explained the motivation for conducting the study: “We wanted to investigate what packaging characteristics make motivated consumers throw the packaging in the waste. If motivated consumers experience such major obstacles to certain packaging, it can be expected that even more packaging will be discarded if less motivated. The consumers’ willingness to sort is crucial for an improvement.”

The Circular Economy

Williams added: “Although our results need to be verified in a larger study, our pilot study provides many ideas on how packaging designs should be developed to make it easier to sort. In order to reach the ambitions of the EU’s Circular Economy Strategy, the industry needs to understand how packaging design can help consumers to sort. If the questions are handled with the correct insight into materials, technology and consumer behaviour, Sweden can lead the development of knowledge that globally can contribute to reducing plastic waste in the oceans.”

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