Technological watch

Surveys reveal buzzword burnout among consumers bombarded with sustainability claims

Two consumer surveys were in my inbox this morning, both addressing what consumers really think of the “green and sustainable” label when it comes to the products they buy. I found these particularly interesting in light of the fact that many retailers and brand owners keep saying they are getting rid of plastic packaging because that’s what consumers want.

One survey of 20,832 American consumers conducted by PiPLSAY on Coca-Cola’s decision not to discontinue using recyclable plastics for its bottles found that:

  • 26% of respondents “agree that single-use plastic bottles are better” than alternatives because they are lightweight, easy to carry and resealable;
  • 28% weren’t sure;
  • 22% think Coca-Cola should be environmentally friendly; and
  • 19% don’t care about the packaging.
Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said they think Coke puts profits first. Gee! Do you think that maybe profits are important when running a company? Of course companies like Coca-Cola prioritize profitability; otherwise they couldn’t exist as a company! That’s how companies stay in business and keep providing the great products that people love to buy! Economics 101, folks!

Forty-two percent of consumers surveyed by PiPLSAY said that Coca-Cola should use eco-friendly materials like glass and aluminum for its bottles. These people obviously haven’t read the studies that show plastic is far more eco-friendly than glass, given that glass manufacturing uses more energy and natural resources. A new study came out recently showing that sand, the primary product in making glass, is starting to be in short supply as beaches erode due to weather events, and sand pits found along rivers are causing more ecological damage. Glass also has a breakage problem, causing product loss that adds to the cost.

Aluminum, granted, is light weight and recyclable. But studies show that the energy it takes to dig the ore out of the ground, ship it, process it in giant smelters and so forth actually outweighs the cost of getting petroleum and natural gas from the earth and processing it.

Thirty-two percent of consumers surveyed do believe that Coca-Cola should recycle 100% of the plastics it uses in packaging, something that Coca-Cola has said is a primary goal. Eighteen percent think Coca-Cola should reduce the amount of plastics used per bottle, and 8% just plain “don’t care what brands do for the environment.”

Are consumers burned out by buzzwords used in promoting products as “green and sustainable”? The answer appears to be a resounding yes, given the responses to a survey of 3,446 consumers conducted by The organization found that 83% of consumers “feel misled” by buzzwords like “biodegradable” (74%), “recycled” (63%) and “recyclable” (44%). Those were the top three of 10 buzzwords consumers consider to be misleading.

Publication date: 27/01/2020

Plastics Today


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.