Brands Courting Eco-Conscious Consumers

Floating islands of plastic are no one’s idea of a good thing, and now major brands like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Unilever, and PepsiCo are looking into reusable containers to address consumer concerns about disposable plastic and the waste it creates.

Single-use packaging is much of the culprit in creating islands of trash in the Pacific. In response to consumers’ complaints about this waste, manufacturers of shampoo, detergent, and packaged food will begin testing this summer to see if they can sell their products in glass, steel, and other materials designed to be returned and refilled.

Unilever will put deodorant in refillable steel containers. PepsiCo will sell orange juice in a glass bottle. P&G will sell its Pantene shampoo in an aluminum container. The products will not change, but their outward packaging will, and in so doing will respond to demands for recyclability and reuse.

Although the products in the reusable packaging won’t cost more, they willrequire consumers to pay for a deposit and arrange to return the refillable containers. The companies testing the packaging are waiting to see if their investments in the sustainable packaging will fly. Because unless a lot of people—not just the most eco conscious—are willing to do more than complain about waste, the mountains of plastic will just keep growing.

Discussion

  1. Why is it in the interest of big companies to offer reusable containers?
  2. What kinds of entrenched human behavior will these big brand manufacturers have to combat for reusable containers to become mainstream?
  3. What do you think motivates these companies to curtail plastic waste?

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