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Once the ‘enemy,’ Canadians rediscovering plastic packaging due to COVID-19 fears: study

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Canadians are buying more single-use plastic food packaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
The report, which compares two national surveys, gauged Canadian attitudes toward the environmentally unfriendly packaging — both before and after the coronavirus pandemic hit.
While the report showed that the percentage of Canadian shoppers actively shopping for non-plastic packaging remained essentially the same, there was a small decline in concern about the environmental impact of plastics, as well as a notable increase in the number of people who said they were buying more single-use plastics during the pandemic.
According to the study, 29 per cent of overall respondents feel they’re buying more plastic packaged goods, with young people — 47 per cent of 18-to-25-year-olds — reporting the largest increase.
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“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly altered the landscape of consumer opinion on plastic packaging,” the study’s lead author, Robert Kitz, said in a statement.

“While tighter regulations and even bans had once looked like near-consensus policy options, that support is now eroded.”

Concerns about food safety during the pandemic, as well as less disposable income to buy more environmentally friendly packaging, are cited as possible contributors.
The institute’s Dr. Sylvain Charlebois told 680 CJOB, people’s opinions on the importance of plastic have changed drastically since the pandemic began.
“Last year everyone was talking about plastics, it was the enemy … and it took the food industry by surprise. Overwhelmingly, Canadians wanted plastics to disappear, essentially,” he said.
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“You could see there was momentum — up until March, when everything changed. It was about survival, it was about keeping safe. It was about making sure our food was safe.”
“Plastics became your friend again, and clearly, based on our results … a lot of Canadians are not overly keen now to see bans. They want to just see industry and government wait until we’re done with this pandemic.”
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab said it will continue to monitor public sentiment about plastics. The survey was carried out from July 10 to July 14, and was compared to the results of an earlier survey conducted between May 13 and May 18, 2019.
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