Halifax — Single-use plastics—or SUPs—are a very hot topic for Canadians. SUPs are used only once, then discarded or recycled. They include most food and product packaging, plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, and beverage bottles. Reduction of SUPs has emerged as a key environmental concern in Canada and around the world.
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University has released the results of a study of societal attitudes in Canada toward SUPs: “The single-use plastics dilemma: Perceptions and possible solutions.”
The majority of Canadians surveyed—93.7 per cent—said they are personally motivated to reduce single-use plastic food packaging because of its environmental impacts. While 89.8 per cent believe that regulations to reduce the use of SUP packaging for food should be strengthened.
The study recommends incentivizing compostable packaging (plant-based polymers); encouraging the use of recyclable materials like cardboard, paper and foil wrapping; a voluntary phase-out of plastic bags; and enhanced support for research and commercialization of compostable packaging.
- 71.2 per cent support a ban of all single-use plastics used for food packaging. It was found that region, age and socio-economic determinants are significant factors in how Canadians view the SUP issue. Millennials and Gen Zs are generally more mindful of SUPs than previous generations, and people earning more than $150K per year are slightly more motivated than those earning less. Participants in the Atlantic Region and Quebec were most motivated to reduce SUPs, while participants in the Prairies were the least.
- 56.4 per cent reported actively shopping for food with non-plastic packaging. Women are more likely than men to actively shop for non-plastic packaging, but 56.6 per cent of respondents say that in the next six months they intend to increase purchases of food in green packaging.
- 89.8 per cent believe plastic packaging should be changed to green alternatives. 37.7 per cent of respondents are willing to pay more for an item in biodegradable packaging; the younger the respondents, the more willing they are to pay a premium.
- 52.9 per cent would accept paying a government tax to disincentivize use of plastic food packaging, but there is little interest in paying fees to food companies to reduce SUPs. Bans on SUPs are not as popular as developing and using new packaging technologies—biodegradable/compostable solutions are most popular with Canadians.
- 83.3 per cent are unwilling to pay more than 2.5 per cent extra for a food product with green packaging.