Additionally, more than 70 percent of respondents prefer to visit restaurants which use safe food packaging.
The survey of 1,037 people completed in the third quarter of 2016 by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Centre for Social Policy Studies, concludes that sustainability and safety are as important for Hong Kong consumers when they purchase paper products or consume food packaging.
APP believes that this creates an opportunity for suppliers to differentiate their brands and products if they introduce safer and more environmentally friendly products.
When purchasing paper products, 67 percent of consumers consider whether the products are sustainable and have environmental certifications.
However, around 90 percent of respondents have not heard of the main forest certification systems including FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).
These two organisations together account for some 98 percent of the world’s certified forests and chain of custody certificates. In fact, Hong Kong consumers realised they need to acquire knowledge about sustainable paper products, and 93 percent of respondents agreed that more education on how to distinguish sustainable paper products is needed.
It’s good news for the environment and for paper product producers that Hong Kong consumers prefer to purchase products with sustainable and environmental friendly packaging. And that they are willing to pay a premium for sustainable packaging,” said Thomas Yu, Head of Gold East Trading (Hong Kong) Company Limited.
“If paper product producers and suppliers are able to capture the opportunity and improve their product packaging, not only can they play a part in saving the environment, but also improve the corporate image and increase the trust of consumers in the brands.
“Take APP as an example. We announced in 2013 the Forest Conservation Policy with an aim to offer environmentally-friendly paper products and safe food packaging of high standard, as part of our commitment to sustainable forest management.”
Recommending regulation and public education. The survey also investigated the use of safe paper products in restaurants and revealed that more than 90 percent of consumers said that the government should establish regulations to ensure the safety of food packaging and more public education is needed in this area.
Specifically, 59 percent of consumers do not know that some paper products contain harmful optical brightening agents (OBA) which are used to brighten papers.
Among the 57 percent of consumers who do not pay attention to the safety of food packaging when they buy foods from restaurants, 79 percent of whom explained that most restaurants do not provide relevant safety information even they would like to know more.
Thomas Yu added, “As the survey highlights, consumers expect the industry and government to safeguard public health by ensuring the safety of food packaging.
“However, we believe there is room for improvement in the areas of regulation and industry practice, so we hope to work with the industry and government on setting a safety standard which is consistent in preventing the use of harmful substances such as OBAs in food-packaging materials, for the sake of public health.
“It would be a good start for the industry to take the lead in keeping the consumers well informed and helping them make wise decisions.”
Tom Hun about the food packaging materials
Tom Hun, General Manager of Chemistry Lab, Intertek Testing Services Hong Kong Limited, highlighted, “Food packaging materials like paper, plastic and ceramics may contain harmful materials such as fluorescent brightener, heavy metal and plasticiser.
“A number of countries in Asia, America and Europe have established specific safety standards to regulate food packaging.
“Consumers should choose food packaging and containers which can meet safety standards. They should also process pre-packaged foods according to instructions, and stop using damaged food packaging and containers.”
Ricky Fan, Chairman of the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Association, said, “The survey conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University revealed that Hong Kong people expect to receive more information and education on sustainable and safe packaging.
“The government should tighten the regulations and provide more guidance in this area. For example, the packaging provided by suppliers and restaurants should meet certain food safety and sustainability standards, and the certification should be printed on packages so that consumers can distinguish those products.
“The government should also provide education to the public regarding the standards and regulations.”