What COVID Taught Us About Sustainable Packaging

COVID-19 pushed for rigid behavioral changes for people all over the world in a very dramatic way. Naturally there was a hyperfocus on health and hygiene. Behaviors shifted from in store shopping to ecommerce as a way to limit contact with other humans. In 2020, the idea of creating more sustainable solutions was accelerated by the influx of packaging that consumers were receiving in their homes as a result of online shopping. However, a conundrum existed in that single-use plastic still provided hygiene and protection against the global pandemic. If our priority is to produce packaging that is sustainable then there will be a need for consumers to shift their buying habits. Without this demand or agreement from consumers on sustainable packaging options, brand owners and large consumer companies will not change the way in which they perform new research and development efforts into packaging and product design.

Lessons Learned from Covid

Consumers became more concerned about packaging standards
COVID-19 led to increased concern among consumers about their own safety in relation to packaging quality standards and hygiene as compared to the pre-COVID-19 era. Similarly, statistics from developed markets show an increase in these concerns following COVID-19. Reusable packaging, unfortunately, saw a decline in demand because of the concern for hygiene. This was most apparent with grocery stores encouraging consumers to not bring in their reusable bags or coffee shops not allowing consumers to use a reusable cup because of concerns of COVID-19. Reusable packages do still have a place in the sustainable packaging strategies because if on an industrial scale, they are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and can be great options for food takeaway and delivery.
People’s spending habits pushed brands to commit to sustainable packaging
During this time of crisis, what emerged is a trend where companies are doing more and better with less. Consumers’ spending habits and lifestyles are encouraging businesses to commit to improving hygiene standards, recycling materials, and/or designing polymers that will result in sustainable solutions in the future. Packaging is steadily evolving as the market continues to change with customer preferences. Packaged goods that were traditionally sold in brick-and-mortar stores are now being delivered directly to consumers’ homes through online shopping. With the onset of socially distancing, there has been more emphasis on contact-less packaging.
Consumers became the main source for ideas on better packaging
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed companies to better understand how people want their products to be packaged. With advances in technology, it is now possible to communicate with consumers about how they want their products delivered. Companies can conduct a Life Cycle Assessment based on consumer feedback and use this information for improvement purposes. Cast away your preconceptions about what will work best, and instead communicate with consumers about how they want to receive their products. Better packaging design means a more sustainable future for your company and many other companies as well.
Global supplies chains are more fragile than we thought
COVID-19 has taught us that global supplies chains are more fragile and susceptible than we may have thought. These supply chains have a greater risk of strain for those manufacturers who must travel across the seas in order to provide their products. Thus, it is in your company’s best interest to coordinate with local manufactures whenever possible, as this will be an advantage when future pandemics or crises ensue. One of the most important lessons we learned from this pandemic is that businesses that have a “local global” presence have a better advantage than those that have a “global local” one. They often understand their markets better and can adapt easily in tough conditions such as pandemics. 


COVID-19 has taught us that sustainable packaging is not only about producing less waste, but also about shifting consumer habits. As customers demand more sustainable packaging, brands are being forced to rethink their designs. This change is indicative of a larger trend as companies scramble to find ways they can stay competitive. Trayak has been helping leading brands of all sizes make data-driven sustainability decisions for over 10 years. If you would like to learn more about our tools and services please contact us.

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