Packaging provider Stora Enso has surveyed European consumers to uncover their thoughts on reusable packaging and its cleanliness and convenience.

More than 7,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 64 responded to the survey, spread across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

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Despite positive impressions, many consumers lack clarity on the definition of reusable packaging with confusion around reusing at home or retailer refill stations. When asked in more detail, consumers also expressed reservations about packaging cleanliness and convenience.

A sizeable 78% of respondents would be worried about hygiene if a product was packaged in a reusable container. This became a key issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers prioritised cleanliness and safety over the sustainability concerns of disposable packaging.

Consumer perceptions around hygiene and the ‘anxiety economy’ also favoured certain packaging materials such as paperboard over those deemed to be unsterile, such as plastic. Concerns over cleanliness clearly still remain but are now less pandemic-driven.

Additionally, more than one-fifth (22%) agreed it would take too much effort to return packaging to the point of purchase, highlighting some of the obstacles to adoption. The question of effort is at the centre of the debate around whether consumers, businesses, or governments are responsible for effective recycling methods.

The research also finds that recyclable carton packaging solutions are the preferred option for many consumers with over half of respondents favouring this material due to its recyclability (51%) and ease of recycling (52%).

Most consumers (75%) view recycling packaging as a form of reuse, especially with everyday items that are recycled at scale, such as paper.

If recycling processes can be simplified and companies can reassure consumers as to the cleanliness of reusable packaging, current efforts would see improved success.