Ocean connectedness and consumer responses to single-use packaging
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Single-use packaging items constitute a large proportion of the plastic litter found in the marine environment. Consumer decisions contribute to the accumulation of this pollution in the environment. Here we undertook two studies to assess consumer responses to different types of single-use packaging. Moreover, we introduce a new measure of ocean connectedness adapted from nature connectedness measures and investigate its association with consumer response. In Study 1, 60 UK undergraduate students completed a packaging rating task and a survey on ocean connectedness in a laboratory environment. In the rating task pictures of bottled drinks with unique combinations of packaging recyclability (recyclable or non-recyclable) and type of material (plastic, glass, aluminium or carton) were rated in terms of willingness to buy, anticipated affective response and attractiveness. Study 2 used the same experimental approach online, with responses gathered from a broader UK public sample (n = 512). The data were analysed using linear mixed models. Both studies demonstrated a strong preference for recyclable over non-recyclable packaging and found interaction effects between recyclability and ocean connectedness: We found larger differences between ratings for recyclable and non-recyclable packaging in consumers high in ocean connectedness than in respondents low in ocean connectedness. Interactions between packaging material and consumer ratings showed that plastic packaging in general was viewed as less benign by those high in ocean connectedness. Ocean connectedness has the potential to encourage sustainable purchasing and help minimise plastic waste. Study limitations and wider implications are discussed.
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