A balancing act: environment VS hygiene & safety during Covid crisis

One thing we can be certain about in the current climate of Covid is that there has been a shift in consumer behaviour considering the changing attitudes about packaging and demand for packaged goods. The extent to which this is a permanent change is as impossible to predict as it is to keep up with the fast moving Covid-19 crisis. Equally unknown is the optimum balance between environmental concerns surrounding packaging and the safety and protection of humans.

Below we explore some of the contributing factors to the shifts brought about by Covid and how consumers attitudes have changed as a result of the global pandemic.

Packaging recognised and appreciated for its original purpose of protection

The role of packaging has long served humans as a way to protect them. Packaging maintains the safety and hygiene of the goods they enclose.

Consumers have speculated about the safety of food packaging however, information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) clearly highlights that the risk of infection being spread via food packaging is very low. WHO states on their website “Coronaviruses need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive and cannot multiply on the surface of food packages. It is not necessary to disinfect food packaging materials…”

Despite these reassurances about safety of food and its packaging, there is no doubt that food safety is a consumer concern that is not going to disappear overnight in relation to Covid-19.

Food hygiene & safety increases demand for packaged goods

More people are consuming products such as food, beverages and pharmaceuticals on-the-go; backed up by research studies as well as reported sales by companies involved in the packaging sector.

One such study, looking at attitudes and behaviours around food, was conducted in April by the International Food Information Council. The study found that 42% of survey takers reported buying more packaged foods than usual over the past month. Disposable takeaway packaging options, for example, are now in higher demand as consumption patterns shift to food delivery.

Attitudes are changing as appreciation for the positive role packaging plays grows

One question in a survey conducted by Packaging Europe asked respondents what longer-term impacts of the pandemic they envisaged there would be on packaging/FMCG. “Over a third believe there will also be a shift in consumer preference around packaging materials/formats and a reduction in consumer enthusiasm for refill/reuse packaging systems.” In another question, just under half of all respondents (45%) answered that they believe there will be a greater societal appreciation of the positive role of packaging.

Striking a balance between hygiene and environmental protection

Where do the environmental concerns fit amongst all of this? The climate crisis has not been put on hold because of the Covid crisis, however there have been some suggestions that there might be some easing off the plastics backlash and slow-down in the move to favour environmentally friendly packaging solutions as a result of the increased recognition of packaging’s protective role.

Certainly the New Zealand government’s recent announcement on their investment in waste minimisation has underlined that Bonson’s effort towards a circular economy is reassured. We reiterate our comment in our recent article that we are all about giving our customers and in turn, consumers, choices around their packaging. We also stress that it is essential to be informed and choose wisely when you are considering options to package food safely. Our website provides a wealth of information and our team is available to answer your questions and concerns.

As uncertain as the future is and where the balance lies between the hygiene and environmental concerns of packaging, you can be sure of one thing… packaging food properly so that it is safe for consumers is essential for the survival of humans on this planet.