A panel hosted by Nova Chemicals took a look at sustainable packaging during the 2020 Plastics News Caps & Closures conference.
A recent survey conducted for Calgary-based Nova — a maker of polyethylene resins used in caps and closures — showed a pretty big positive swing in the perception of plastics among younger consumers.
The survey included almost 1,300 respondents in the U.S. and Canada across a broad demographic range. When asked if they agreed with the statement "The benefits of plastics outweigh the risks," 43 percent of respondents under age 45 agreed. That number was up from 29 percent when that age group was asked the same question last year.
When asked to choose between plastic, glass, cartons or aluminum for safe and sanitary packaging, 34 percent of respondents ages 18-24 chose plastic. That was much higher than the 25 percent who chose plastic in the 25-64 age group and the 15 percent who chose plastic in the 65 and up age group.
"The results from those first two slides were shocking," Nova caps and closures market manager Brant Wunderlich said during the Sept. 21 panel. "It flipped on its head year on year."
He added that the results "showed that plastics resonate with youth. … People see the benefits. …They get it."
In an email, Nova e-commerce packaging market manager Jonathan Quinn said that the objective of the study was to understand how consumer perceptions have shifted from the study the firm conducted in 2019. The overarching goal of both studies was to understand consumer perceptions as it pertains to plastics and plastic packaging, he said.
The panel also was asked whether consumers are willing to pay more for recycled-content packaging. Quinn said that consumers often say they'll pay more for soft drinks in recycled-content packaging, but he added "I wonder if they'll really pay when the rubber meets the road."
David Luttenberger, global packaging director with London-based market research firm Mintel Group Ltd., agreed with Quinn, saying on the panel that researchers "have seen decades of surveys" saying consumers will pay more for recycled packaging, but "the gap between intent and action is wide and widening, especially now as we watch over our purchasing dollars."