betty August 2, 2022

SINGAPORE – While 95 per cent of consumers in Singapore are inclined to choose products with sustainable packaging, more than one in two will avoid doing so if such packaging costs more, according to a report by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) published on Tuesday (Aug 2).

The study on consumer attitudes regarding packaging waste in Singapore was conducted in collaboration with KPMG and drew on surveys conducted last year involving more than 1,015 people here across household types, ages and income levels.

Beyond seeing consumers as reluctant to put their money where their mouth is, the results suggest that manufacturers will need to lower the cost of sustainable packaging for consumer habits to change, said Ms Cherine Fok, director of sustainability services at KPMG in Singapore at a media briefing.

In fact, 20 per cent of respondents identified price as the only deciding factor for purchasing a product with sustainable packaging.

Said Ms Fok: “Cost remains one of the key issues – and we know we need to manage costs in times of recession and economic distress, as well as for low-income families, for people who are struggling and cannot afford a premium for sustainable packaging.

“Perhaps it is up to the manufacturers and all of us to think about how to develop sustainable packaging that is much more affordable.”

Packaging waste formed about a third of the 1.82 million tonnes of domestic waste thrown away in 2021.

Plastic packaging accounted for most of the waste at 289,000 tonnes, enough to fill 32,111 dumpster trucks, said SEC.

Singapore’s only landfill, Semakau Landfill, is expected to run out of space by 2035 at the current rate of waste generation.

Further education is keenly needed among consumers on recyclable items in Singapore, said Ms Fok.

When it came to recycling, seven out of 10 consumers lacked a complete understanding of which materials can be recycled, with over half of those citing insufficient information on sustainable packaging and its benefits, the report found.

For example, 175 individuals of those surveyed misidentified styrofoam as a material that can be recycled here, she noted.

Confusion about recycling packaging is exacerbated by the absence of clear labelling, with 78 per cent of respondents stating that they were unable to tell whether they could recycle packaging based on the information printed on it.

This highlights the importance of eco-labelling, since most consumers reported that they relied on the packaging or the Internet to determine whether the material could be recycled, said SEC senior environmental engineer Augustine Quek, who helped conduct the study.

In the next few months, SEC plans to work with schools and various interest groups to educate the public about what can be recycled, Dr Quek added.