Shoppers are psychologically hardwired into expecting packaging that makes no sense. It’s time for us to think outside the box. Do you agree?
Close your eyes for a moment. Picture some satsumas on a supermarket shelf. I bet your mental image includes a net. Almost all citrus fruit is packaged in these ridiculous nets.
They can’t be recycled in household collections, there’s no obvious way to reuse them and they serve no meaningful purpose in preserving shelf life or reducing waste. Worst of all, if you accidentally put them in your household recycling they could clog up the machinery at the recycling plant.
Yet our brains are primed to believe citrus fruit must come in these nets. One supermarket tried to ditch them a few years ago, selling satsumas in other types of packaging. The result? Sales nosedived.
It’s not just citrus fruit packaging
Is it that our minds are so inflexible we can’t cope with our favourite groceries packaged in a slightly different way? Or is it that we’re not given enough of a chance? Because it’s not just citrus fruit.
Until recently almost all red meat was packaged in black plastic trays, as marketing bosses wanted to disguise stray drops of blood. Black plastic is a huge recycling sin because, while it’s technically recyclable, its colour means it’s not picked up by the infrared sorting system at recycling sites. Manufacturers have seen sense and started to swap the black for other colours.
And don’t get me started on Pringles tubes.
They’re large, heavy and unrecyclable in household collections. So why are they like this? Seemingly because we like uniformly shaped crisps without even a hint of a natural potato shape.
One way to combat this absurdity is recycling labelling. Having to label something non-recyclable will make everyone think twice. We’ve been calling for four years for it to be mandatory and the government has just said this will come into effect in 2026.
Until then, retailers manufacturers and shoppers must literally think outside the box and seek out more sustainable alternatives when it comes to grocery packaging.
Do you agree that we need to find alternative packaging solutions? Why do you think sales nosedived when the satsuma nets were ditched? Let me know in the comments.