Eight ways brands are redirecting COVID-19 waste awareness to boost sustainability

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people traded their concerns about packaging waste for hygiene and safety.

The author(s)

  • Ashley Ericksen Vice President, US
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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people traded their concerns about packaging waste for hygiene and safety. As stores and communities went into lockdowns, shoppers turned to online ordering and delivery or pickup for essentials and food with the hope that the pandemic would be short-lived.

But as the pandemic stretched past six months, about a third of Americans again worried about waste. Now, they want brands to innovate out of this problem, especially with solutions related to food safety and packaging, according to a recent Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they want the brands they buy to make it easy to recycle or reuse the packaging of their products. This work will drive a renewed focus on future sustainability that consumers are demanding and then rewarding brands that lead the way. Here are eight ways companies are already making changes:

  • Many corporations and brands are creating new sustainability goals for 2030 and beyond, and the United Nations has updated its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to serve as a framework for global COVID-19 recovery.
  • PepsiCo announced its plan to join a consortium of global consumer goods companies to pilot branded paper bottles in 2021.
  • In the U.S., Starbucks began trialing a new recyclable, compostable cup.
  • Domino’s is using a communications strategy to educate customers that they can safely recycle cardboard pizza boxes — even with grease on them.
  • As nearly half of people surveyed by Ipsos say they’d prefer to be asked if they need extras like plastic silverware or napkins, local restaurants can actively make the choice for these “extras” to save money and limit their environmental impact.
  • With growing demand for and usage of online ordering and home delivery, reusable container services like Loop can attract new food and beverage brands to drive reusable packaging.
  • Materials developers can make cost-effective compostable or biodegradable materials available to local restaurants pivoting through quarantines to sell meal kits, pantry staples and carryout cocktails.
  • Brands can take inspiration from TikTok trends like kids biting into apple juice containers to create truly edible packaging.

Not only can brands continue to help bring the U.S. together in unique and safe ways, they can also lead society toward a more sustainable future.  

For more on our special focus on Waste, please visit What the Future.

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The author(s)

  • Ashley Ericksen Vice President, US

Consumer & Shopper