Over half of UK consumers are prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging

New research* with UK consumers by Aquapak, the speciality polymers business which develops innovative materials enabling the circular economy, reveals that more than half (52%) would be prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging when they buy clothes and accessories.

The findings highlighted consumers’ commitment to a move towards planet-friendly packaging.  Of those prepared to pay more, one third said they would pay an additional 1% to 4% of the purchase price of their goods to receive them in sustainable packaging, almost two fifths (39%) said they would pay a 5% premium. 8% said they would pay between 6% and 9% more and 15% said they would be prepared to pay a staggering between 10% and 20% more.  This means that on an average online order of £66.80**, a 5% premium of £3.34 gives scope for brands to optimise their circularity, whilst retaining their margins and making the use of environmentally friendly packaging commercially viable.

The survey also showed that despite some efforts by the industry to move away from single-use plastic packaging, the majority (76%) do not think fashion brands are doing enough to reduce its use and move to other types of packaging.  Over two thirds (67%) said that they want to see greater use of paper-based packaging, which can go into kerbside recycling collections, 54% said that they want brands to stop using single-use plastic completely. When asked about “better than now” options, 57% would like single use plastic garment bags to be replaced with those, which can be dissolved in washing up water or the dishwasher without harming the marine environment.

However, despite consumers’ frustrations with the recyclability of packaging used by fashion brands, most (61%) felt that it was on a par with other industries such as food and drink, household products, cosmetics and toiletries.  One third thought it was worse and just 6% said it was better when it came to environmentally friendly packaging.

Mark Lapping, Chief Executive Officer, Aquapak, comments: ‘Our research shines a light on the appetite for more sustainable packaging from consumers, and more which is paper-based.  The good news is that new technologies exist to improve the functionality of paper packaging, particularly for e-commerce, so that it can provide the product protection needed, whilst retaining the ability to fully recover and reuse the paper fibres. The industry needs to collaborate to make these mainstream options by increasing the use of novel materials that enable the design of recyclable packaging for the circular economy.’

Such collaboration has been at the heart of the environmentally friendly, circular alternatives which provide excellent functionality and product protection. For example, HydropolTM, an Aquapak polymer is a high-performance polymer that enables product design to provide its much-needed functionality whilst reducing plastic pollution.

When extrusion coated or laminated onto paper, HydropolTM adds strength plus barriers to oxygen, oil and grease, whilst its tailored solubility allows 100% paper fibre recovery through paper recycling mills. It has the added advantage that – as well as being biodegradable and compostable – it is non-toxic to the environment and marine-safe,  so it still has a safe end-of-life (leaving no trace in the environment) if it is not disposed of as intended. In collaboration with Aquapak and packaging companies to develop re-usable, heat sealable mailing bags, fashion brands such as Finisterre, plus fashion packaging and labelling company Maxim Group, have already committed to adding to their sustainable packaging by using these innovative paper mailing bags.

An overview of traditional mailing bags vs paper-lined alternatives

Whilst traditional mailing bags provide protection, being made from PE are limited in reuse and often recycling, which is not always available. Paper is seen as more environmentally friendly by consumers thanks to its kerb-side recyclability. Compostables (assuming this option is chosen by the end user) offer lower environmental impact but reduced functionality. New-gen materials such as Hydropol when combined with paper retain the properties needed to protect items, whilst giving multiple end of life options, removing the reliance on end-users to leave no trace on the environment.

See comparison table below:

Kraft paper bag
Paper envelope
Paper e-commerce mailer
Padded ‘jiffy bag’ FSC
Card Mailer
PE Mailing bag
Compostable mailer
Kraft paper laminated with Hydropol
Kraft paper
Paper padded with shredded recyclable paper
Sugar cane and potato starch
Size mm
380 x 250
320 x 230
425 x 255
270 x 200
350 x 250
650 x 450
350 x 250
Bag weight (g)
Material spec
40 gsm paper / 25 mu Hydropol
130 gsm paper
120 gsm
250 gsm
650 gsm
50 mu
40 mu
Puncture resistance (kg/f)
Seal strength (N)
Kerbside recyclable
End-of-life Options
Landfill or recycled at stores

* Research conducted by Consumer Intelligence with 1022 UK consumers in January 2022

** The average order value (AOV) of online shopping orders that came through mobile phones was 66.8 British pounds during the third quarter of 2020.

Image credit: Marcell Viragh / Unsplash