Consumers should be made aware of how much they pay for packaging to encourage them to seek more sustainable alternatives, a new report from Zero Waste Scotland has claimed.
The study suggests that if consumers knew how much of a product’s cost covered its packaging they would be more likely to turn to reusable alternatives.
Zero Waste Scotland – which is funded by the Scottish Government – claims that households north of the border spend almost £250 a year on product packaging. This amounts to around 300,000 tonnes per year of packaging, the organisation says.
Zero Waste Scotland believes that the success of measures such as plastic bag and coffee cup charges show that people will avoid paying for packaging if the cost is clear. The 5p single use plastic bag charge has reportedly reduced use by 80% in Scotland.
This comes ahead of the introduction of a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks packaging, which is expected to be introduced from 2020, and will see consumers pay a 20p deposit on the purchase of packaged drinks.
Zero Waste Scotland believes highlighting the cost will encourage consumers to change their behaviour, not just those who are environmentally conscious.
It said: “The point of highlighting the cost of single-use packaging is not to say that packaging is inherently bad, but that it is inherently a product, and like any other product, consumers can make more informed decisions about whether the service provided is worth the cost if that cost is made clear upfront.”
Zero Waste Scotland acknowledged that increased cost and inconvenience are barriers to consumers taking up reusable packaging options. Yet it believes that when packaging cost is made clear these hurdles can be overcome and people will seek out reusable or unpackaged alternatives.
The group also calculated that the 130kg of packaging bought by the average Scottish household costs them £245.61 per year – 7% of the total annual grocery bill. £3,445 is spent on non-packaging costs, such as shipping, marketing and the price of the product itself.
The cost of plastic pots, tubs and trays was the biggest burden for households, adding £45.28 to the grocery bill for the year. The costs of plastic bottles, paper and cardboard and some aluminium products were close behind at around £43 per year.
Scotland also pays around £40 million a year in waste management costs incurred by local authorities – some of the waste they process comes from single-use packaging which has been disposed of.
The report’s figures were reached by obtaining wholesale prices from a range of packaging manufacturers. The lowest cost per kg was used to obtain a conservative estimate.