NEW YORK, NY — Consumers are about evenly split between favoring convenient packaging over environmentally-friendly packaging, an issue that will only get more muddled without a clearer understanding of what green packaging really is, says Thomson Reuters.
"There are many labels saying that packaging is green, but not much guidance on whether these labels actually certify a real improvement," says the information company's intellectual properties business in its "Convenience v Conscience" report. "Consumers need real assurance that they are spending their money for real improvements that not only are green, but also preserve and protect food just as well or better than the old options."
Many consumers clearly favor greener packaging, the company found through a survey of 1,011 people in March. Consumers were asked if packaging that makes life easier or packaging that is good for the environment is more important, and 47 percent went with convenience while 49 percent chose greenness.
When broken down by gender lines, 56 percent of women chose green as opposed to 42 percent of men. And 52 percent of men favored convenience, while 41 percent of women did.
The report also compiled information on 14,000 invention patents and 10,000 trademarks that were made between 2004 and 2009. In looking at them, the report notes, it was "virtually impossible" to identify which ones are green since there is no clear definition of what green packaging is.
Sometimes the greenness of a packaging is only evident when there is something else to compare it to, and how green a packaging is can also depend on what factor one considers most important: being recyclable, containing recycled materials, being biodegradable, made with less materials, preventing food waste, made with less material or resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
The authors relied on mentions of biodegradability, recycling, barrier films and modified atmosphere (the last two help food stay fresh longer) to define green packaging, and found that 810 of the 14,000 patents could be considered green along with 360 of the 10,000 trademarks. Both areas saw big leaps in recent years.
"Convenience is important, and the challenge is to serve convenience while offering consumers a believable way to make conscientious choices," the report says.
Packaging - CC license by HeadHen (Flickr)