, UK

4 in 5 fast-food consumers don’t prioritise sustainable packaging 

Barriers include difficulty in incorporating it into daily routine.

80% of quick-service restaurant consumers believe that we have a collective responsibility to reduce the need for single-use plastics but research revealed that there is a major gap between intent and action around sustainable packaging.

In a survey by management consulting firm PA Consulting, two in five (38%) recognise the importance of being environmentally friendly, but find it hard to incorporate this in their daily routine. 76% don’t choose products with minimal or no plastic packaging and 77% don’t choose products made from recycled or easily recyclable materials to reduce waste. Almost half (45%) don’t recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal products in designated recycling bins or centres.
According to PA, the culture of convenience is a barrier to adoption with 44% citing difficulty in remembering to bring reusable packaging and 39% worrying about the hassle of returning, cleaning, or storing reusable packaging. 

“This highlights the need to design systems that make it easier to store, clean, and return packaging, with clear communications around expected pack care,” PA said.

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Meanwhile, 43% of consumers would use reusable packaging more if they received a small monetary reward for returning it and 37% if there was no fee to borrow the packaging.

Nearly half (49%) of Boomers would need assurance of reusable packaging’s cleanliness, a figure which falls to 31% amongst Gen Z. Conversely, 43% of Gen Zers were keen to receive a donation to a charity of their choice, compared to 38% of Boomers. Meanwhile, 71% of high-income earners use reusable cups and containers, compared to 55% of low-income earners. 

“Reusable and refillable packaging is at a critical juncture, with the quick-service industry seeking ways to accelerate sustainability and new plastics and packaging regulation coming into force globally. However, our survey highlights that behavioural change is needed to make reusable packaging stick and close the say-do gap. We need to lead with a human-centred approach to design,” Matt Millington, PA’s Design Strategy Lead for the UK, said.

PA conducted the survey in November 2023 with 2,000 respondents across both the UK and the US (4,000 respondents combined) who shop from 28 leading brands. The purpose of the survey was to understand consumer intent, challenges, motivations, and needs around refill and reuse packaging.

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