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Research Centre

‘Feeling good’ about recycled ocean-bound plastic

By May 6, 2020August 29th, 2023No Comments

As an upcoming eco-friendly material, ocean-bound plastic is becoming an increasing popular choice for companies. Though positively received by consumers, what small additional nudges can help influence purchasing behaviour?

More and more companies are looking to combine purpose with profit by integrating recycled ocean-bound plastic into their offering. While access to a reliable flow of high-quality material is important, it’s the consumer who will largely determine the success of the product. Yet, how much do we really know what they think?

A first-of-its-kind study amongst Dutch households took a closer look at how consumers perceived products made from recycled ocean-bound plastic. A variety of products were described, including shoes, dishwashing soap and a vacuum cleaner. The study weighed up factors such as environmental benefits, quality and functionality and measured them against participants intent to purchase and willingness to pay a premium.

Overall, participants responded positively to the product descriptions. General attitude, perceptions of quality, functionality (e.g. performance) and attractiveness were rated above average. Participants were also inclined to buy them. Here, value for money and functionality were important, but most significant was anticipated conscious. In other words, participants were most likely to buy products made from ocean-bound plastic if they were expecting the purchase to make them feel good or give them good ‘ethical’ conscious. This factor was also most important in determining willingness to pay more or an additional supplement. Alongside safety, recognisability also mattered. For example, participants were more willing pay a premium if it was visually apparent that the product was made from recycled ocean-bound plastic.

The study also compared responses across different types of products, such as textiles (e.g. shoes), durables (e.g. vacuum cleaner) and FMCG (e.g. dishwashing soap). Although the environmental benefits of each remained the same, participants rated the quality of FMCGs and durable products higher than textiles and they were also more intent on purchasing them.

Although the lack of images and inability to touch and feel the products was a limitation of the study, the results indicate that there is still some work to be done when it comes to perception. Although textiles did not appeal as much, one only has to look at the success of sustainable clothing brand Patagonia which uses 80% recycled polyester from soda bottles in their product lines. The brand is currently considering using recycled ocean plastic.

As companies continue to develop products that also provide an environmental benefit, consumer preference will continue play a large part in that success. Companies could take into account the ‘feel-good’ factor and recognisability as part of their sales strategy. Whilst some types of products may lend themselves more easily to incorporating this type of material, the innovation and normalisation potential is huge with far reaching impacts. Who will lead the way?