Sustainable Packaging Statistics in the UK in 2022

Sustainable Packaging Statistics in the UK in 2022

Online deliveries are on the rise, and with them comes a bin-filler that everyone dreads: packaging waste. Packaging can be a conundrum to dispose of: which packaging do you throw away, and which do you recycle? Which materials does your local council handle and which need to be sent off to landfill? 

Packaging waste is one of the biggest culprits of landfill waste worldwide - in fact, the EU reported producing 79.6 million tonnes of it in 2019 alone! There's no denying that packaging waste has a massive environmental impact across the globe. It's not all bad news, though - both customers and companies are beginning to care more and more about utilising recyclable and biodegradable materials to combat the problem. 

This demand for sustainability is good news, but how do UK adults feel about the rising costs that come with it? To answer this question, we asked 1,000 adults across the UK how much more they'd be willing to pay for items packaged with eco-friendly materials. 

Our findings in a nutshell

So, how much more are UK adults willing to pay for eco-friendly packaging? And has interest in using more sustainable packaging methods increased in recent years? Here are our main findings:

  • Over half of all UK adults are happy to spend extra on an item to ensure the packaging is eco-friendly (58%).
  • And over 1 in 4 are happy to spend more than 11% extra for environmentally friendly packaging (29%). 
  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults living in Oxford are willing to spend over 76% more on items packaged sustainably (18%). 
  • In contrast, 58% of Welsh adults say that they would not spend more on an item if it has eco-friendly packaging. 
  • Interest in 'sustainable packaging' peaked in 2021, with people in the UK searching for the phrase an average of 2,283 times per month
  • The average monthly search rate for 'sustainable packaging' in the UK went up by 594% between 2016 and 2021

The survey question: what we asked

We asked 1,000 UK adults how much more they'd be willing to pay for sustainable packaging, in light of the plastic packaging tax introduced across the UK in April. We then divided respondents into demographic groups such as age and gender to determine who would be more willing to pay for eco-friendly packaging options. The survey asked:

How much more would you be willing to pay for items that have sustainable or environmentally friendly packaging? 

  • I wouldn't pay more
  • 1-10% more
  • 11-25% more
  • 26-50% more
  • 51-75% more
  • 79-99% more

How many UK adults would pay more for sustainable packaging?

So, just how many UK adults would be willing to pay more if their packaging was eco-friendly? And how much more are they willing to pay? We found that:

  • Well over half of UK adults are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging (58%).
  • 1 in 4 UK adults will pay more than 11% over the item price if the packaging is sustainable (29%).
  • Almost 1 in 10 adults in the UK will pay more than 50% extra for sustainable packaging (7%). 

At what age are adults likely to pay more for eco-friendly packaging?

Disposable income is frequently associated with age, and it's reasonable to expect it to influence how much a person is willing to pay for sustainable packaging. In light of this, we separated our survey respondents into age groups to see how much a person's age affects their willingness to spend money on eco-friendly packaging in the UK. 

  • 95% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are willing to pay more for items packaged sustainably. 
  • In direct contrast, only 44% of UK adults between 55 and 64 are willing to pay more. 
  • Adults over the age of 65 are the second least likely to pay more, with over half (53%) saying they will not pay more if an item is wrapped in eco-friendly packaging.

Where in the UK are people more likely to pay more for sustainable packaging?

Does location affect how likely UK adults are to pay more for sustainable packaging? To answer this question, we separated survey respondents into cities across the UK.

  • A massive 18% of adults living in Oxford are willing to pay over 76% more for an item packaged sustainably, making Oxford the city most eager to cover the costs of eco-friendly packaging
  • London is second to Oxford, with 5% of Londoners admitting that they would also pay more than 76% over the item's cost for eco-friendly packaging. 
  • Adults living in Wolverhampton are the least likely to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging, with only 1 in 5 saying that they would accept additional fees (20%)

So what about regions? Which areas of the UK are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging? As well as arranging respondents into cities, we categorised them into regions across the UK. 

  • Only 42% of adults in Wales say that they will pay more for sustainable packaging, making them the least willing in the UK. Despite this, Wales had a 56.5% recycle rate in 2020, the highest in the UK. 
  • They're closely followed by adults in the East Midlands (44%) and the South West (45%), making these locations the second and third least willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging. 

How much has the UK's interest in sustainability grown in recent years?

So, how far has the UK come when it comes to sustainability over the past few years? Is our attitude towards packaging and packaging waste changing? To find out, we analysed monthly Google search data for the phrase 'sustainable packaging' from 2016 to 2022. 

  • Interest in eco-friendly packaging peaked in 2021, when people in the UK searched for 'sustainable packaging' an average of 2,283 times per month
  • The rate of average monthly searches in the UK for 'sustainable packaging' increased by a massive 594% from 2016 to 2021.
  • The largest yearly rise was between 2019 and 2020, with people in the UK searching 637 more times per month in 2020 than in 2019. 
  • Almost 100,000 searches are conducted every year in the UK for terms relating to sustainable packaging, such as 'eco-friendly packaging' and 'compostable packaging' (99,840). 

More sustainable packaging facts, figures & statistics

Still looking for more? Here are some extra facts about sustainable packaging in the UK. 

  • According to the government's statistics on waste, the UK produced 12,415 thousand tonnes of packaging waste in 2020 alone.
  • 68.3% of this packaging waste was recycled. That's more than two thirds!
  • In Europe in 2019, 40.6% of all packaging waste was made up of paper and cardboard. 
  • Surprisingly, plastic only made up 19.4% of this packaging waste
  • The Three Rivers District Council in Hertfordshire had the best recycling rate out of any council in the UK from 2019-2020, recycling 64.1% of all household waste.
  • In contrast, the council of Barking and Dagenham in London had the worst recycling rate in the UK, sending only 25.2% of household waste to be recycled between 2019-2020. 

Hopefully our data has helped you to get a better understanding of sustainable packaging in the UK, and the willingness of UK consumers to pay extra for eco-friendly packaging options. For more information about recycling and environmentally friendly packaging, browse through our blog here.

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