FPA's goal is to be up front about problems such as recycling infrastructure, Reigel said.
"Some industries never address the problem; they only address the benefits. We're not scared to address the problem," she said. "Every once in a while … we'll get [a commenter] who goes off on a tangent and responds negatively to every post we have.
"We knew we were going to be confronted with negative people," she added. "People have a lot of really valid questions [and] concerns, so we've never shied away from a hard conversation."
Other talking points in the promotions include greenhouse emissions from glass and cardboard, flexible packaging "[taking] up less space in the landfill," Reigle said, and that flexible packaging improves the shelf life and affordability of fresh produce.
"For the most part," she said, the marketing team believes it's been "able to change [social media users'] perceptions."
Heidi Sanborn, director of the National Product Stewardship Action Council in West Sacramento, Calif., cautioned against using social media to educate the public about sustainability issues.
"Social media is just one vehicle to educate people, and some demographics use it more than others, and different platforms for different age groups," Sanborn said. "It's a tool … but there's so much misinformation on social media and there's no sheriff in town there either making sure [of ]… what's true or not."
That doesn't mean social media shouldn't be used at all for that purpose, Sanborn said.
"I wouldn't say its highly effective because of the amount of cray-cray on there," she said. "You may post a wonderful piece of information but somebody out of left field says something completely bananas [in the public comments], what are you going to do? Get into a comment string with crazy?"
Brands need to focus more on what they're doing and less on feel-good concepts, she said.
"I think it diminishes the believability and the younger generation has a very good bullshit meter," she added. "The CEOs … are not paying enough attention. They have to get on top of their media people and stop the 'feel good about us and our brand' [messaging] … in the long term it's going to hurt brands."
On social media, supporters of environmental groups are critical of brands claiming to be environmentally friendly, Mariah De Los Santos, social media specialist at Greenpeace, told PN.
Greenpeace pushes content calling out big brands to stop greenwashing.
"One of our top performing posts on social media says, 'If your bathtub were overflowing, you wouldn't clean up the water; You would first turn off the tap, and that's what we need to do with single-use plastics,'" De Los Santos said.
"There's a fair amount of distrust toward the plastics industry because the industry is looking to create more plastic," said Lisa Ramsden, Greenpeace's senior plastics campaigner.
She added that consumers feel deceived by the narrative that recycling is the solution to plastic waste, she said.
Research from the Recycling Partnership showed people feel they are getting mixed messages about recyclability. Its survey found that one in four people recalled receiving communication from their local recycling programs in the past year. Those who did were 70 percent more likely to have confidence in their recycling knowledge.
Less than 20 percent of those surveyed reported feeling well informed about what happens to recycling after it leaves the home.
"We're in an interesting time when there are things in the media, social media included, that people have some skepticism, doubt and need for transparency and reassurance," said Elizabeth Schussler, senior director of social change, behavior and impact at the Recycling Partnership.
Consumers are aware of plastic pollution issues, and want industry to take action.
"I hope we're at a time when we're all getting more real about stakeholder roles, and we think all the stakeholders need to be at the table," she added.