Helping consumers play their part in sustainability

Richard Cope
Richard is a Senior Trends Consultant, bringing the most recent client traits to Mintel shoppers by means of bespoke shows and represents Mintel at world conferences.

Mintel not too long ago carried out its third annual seaside clear at Margate’s west sands in south east England, delivering actionable knowledge to the Marine Conservation Society (a charity working for cleaner and better-protected oceans), in addition to worthwhile classes for colleagues about their personal behaviours and influence. As COP27 approaches, there’s a want to have interaction and mobilise individuals in the direction of its targets. A seaside clear is part of that strategy of engagement and activation. Whilst it lacks the emissions influence of one thing like stopping shopping for meat or new garments or putting in house photo voltaic, it’s a essential step to develop consciousness and construct on the assumption presently held by 51% of people who their behaviour “can make a positive difference to the planet” (Mintel Sustainability Barometer).    

Plastic air pollution development

The OECD Global Plastics Outlook study initiatives that plastic waste produced globally will triple by 2060, while Surfers Against Sewage estimates that 8 million items of plastic are coming into the oceans every day. In the three years that Mintel has been visiting Margate west sands seaside we’ve seen notable shifts in the volumes and forms of materials eliminated that replicate this world pattern. If we evaluate our June 2019 and September 2022 cleans (which used the same variety of volunteers on the identical stretch at low tide) we are able to see a 156% development in the variety of plastic objects eliminated. As this seaside is cleaned often by different volunteers, the post-summer issue for the 2022 clear is negligible and it’s price noting that 1,668 whole objects recovered – pardon the pun – trashes the common of 385 litter objects discovered per 100m of seaside surveyed eventually 12 months’s Great British Beach Clean. As a vacationer vacation spot, Margate’s litter drawback is extra extreme, with most of the objects recovered being land-side fairly than tidal in origin. The plastics recovered accounted for 80% of all objects and ranged from indeterminate fragments to fishing line, a whole lot of cigarette butts, to standout objects like sandals, sun shades!    

As our clear continued westwards past the surveying stage, the general quantity of waste eliminated swelled to 87kg, inflated by some sizable, weighty objects corresponding to painted planks, towels and a nitrous oxide canister.

Source: Mintel.

Source: Mintel.

Data for altering client behaviour

The sobering realisation for our volunteers was that almost all of this 87kg of waste was destined for landfill, fairly than being reborn as recycled materials. Despite laudable efforts by teams like Terracycle in ‘downcycling’ recovered ocean plastic into billboards or fencing, solely a really small proportion of recovered ocean plastic will be included in new client packaging attributable to contamination, but solely 46% of consumers reported understanding this in our newest Sustainability Barometer report. 

The actual worth in eradicating this waste – past stopping environmental air pollution and harm – is in the info it gives – one thing that Marine Conservation Society successfully weaponises in its lobbying and campaigning efforts. It notes on its web site:   

“We have been running our national beach cleaning and litter survey work for nearly 30 years. This means we now have decades of data at our fingertips. This data is hugely important as it helps us track the common items we find on our beaches and then campaign for change. This evidence is used to lobby Governments for legislative change, as well as to influence industry practices and to drive campaigns that lead to changes in individual behaviour. From the plastic bag charge to banning microplastics in personal care products your data has helped to make some of the biggest and most significant impacts on beach litter ever.”

A sea change in client and company pondering is required

The wider work of MCS encompasses campaigning for Marine Protected Areas and sustainable fishing practices and in opposition to plastic, chemical and sewage air pollution highlights how seaside cleans could be a gateway to consciousness of and private motion on wider – and sometimes larger – points. 

Mintel’s Sustainability Barometer reveals that 46% of UK consumers cite ocean plastic as a prime three environmental concern, while simply 19% record lack of biodiversity in the oceans and 16% chemical substances coming into the surroundings. 

If we take into account the marine conservation group SeaShepherd’s revelation that 46% of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is definitely fishing nets, or {that a} wholesome seagrass meadow can retailer nearly 3 times as a lot carbon as an equal territorial forest, then the significance of advancing the tutorial and business dialog past packaging to conservation turns into clear. 

Joining a seaside clear – as anyone can do – is part of that course of for consumers, serving to them to query their personal buying and disposal behaviours in addition to the necessity for higher assortment and recycling infrastructure in their communities and nations. 

The identical goes for client going through firms. My authentic MCS seaside clear coaching session in Brighton delivered a priceless, painful perception for the alcoholic drinks firm who’s away day we had been supervising – once we discovered considered one of their discarded, dangerously damaged, starkly branded bottles and logged it accordingly.

The aforementioned misconceptions across the recyclability of recovered ocean plastic are produced – and I’d argue generally actively inspired – by extraordinarily low-scale launches of merchandise “containing recovered ocean plastic” which can be usually advertising performs, fairly than real manufacturing shifts. At Mintel we’ve seen lower than 500 client product launches with ocean/social plastic claims in the previous 5 years on our GNPD database. Many merchandise claiming to be 100% ocean plastic are in reality ‘ocean bound’ plastic, which implies they’re recovered and recycled from a market missing assortment  infrastructure.

Greenwashing – why manufacturers ought to keep away from it

Companies must gravitate away from greenwashing gimmicks that quantity to distracting PR sheen fairly than precise actions at scale (and I embody many resource-intensive, unprocessable “biodegradable” merchandise in that bracket) by doing extra: supporting infrastructural enhancements, researching recyclability improvements and bettering on pack disposal messaging. It’s these efforts that genuinely shut loops and stop supplies, vitality and water being wasted and additional emissions being generated from incineration or landfill. Plastic’s sturdiness, lightness and relative vitality effectivity in recycling is why it is going to proceed to dominate in packaging, however that needs to be as a round materials. 

Being trustworthy with consumers about this (as Patagonia famously did) – fairly than screaming a simplistic “plastic free!” – is part of a course of in the direction of respecting each the surroundings and your prospects. 

For our volunteers, this go to to Margate was each a actuality verify and a thought starter, sparking questions on their broader influence on the surroundings and the private and societal adjustments that would make a distinction. As extra residents and prospects turn into engaged and activated in this fashion by the work of MCS and others, firms might want to maintain tempo with their growing understanding about which issues and which options are genuinely most impactful.

Source: Mintel.


Do you wish to:

  • Learn extra about how engaged your prospects and rivals are in sustainability?
  • Make your merchandise land with prospects? 
  • Understand why sustainable product demand will develop?   

Then communicate to us at Mintel Consulting.