UK Consumer Research gives verdict on environmental impact of cans

Long shelf life tops consumer poll as a reason to package food in cans.

UK consumers cite metal food cans as having the lowest impact on the environment over other forms of food packaging, with over a third (34 per cent) choosing cans over glass (31 per cent); cartons (14 per cent); pouches (11 per cent); and plastic trays (10 per cent). 

When asked why they choose food cans first, the top reason given by consumers was long shelf life, followed by ease of storage, ease of recycling, provision of out of season products, and nutritional value. 

Completing the top ten were: high quality and safety of food; comparatively inexpensive; reduction in food waste; a wide range of products for a varied diet; and provision of unusual or hard to find products. 

Seven in ten consumers believe that food cans are easy to recycle or sort, while 60 per cent agree that cans are fully recyclable without loss of quality. Nearly two thirds believe that food cans can be recycled indefinitely. 

Identical research was conducted across eight other European countries – France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland and revealed that UK consumers rate the can higher than their European counterparts for being easily recyclable, helping to reduce food waste, allowing for a varied and balanced diet and being less expensive than other products.  

Robert Fell, MPMA director and chief executive said: “In the UK we’ve presented the sustainability and packaging benefits of metal food cans tirelessly, and these messages have clearly hit home. Consumers now know that food in cans lasts for at least three years and so reduces waste. There is also widespread appreciation that the can’s recycling attributes are second to none and this clearly influences buying decisions.  

“Websites such as have presented numerous recipe ideas using canned food for dinner parties, family gatherings and our latest, a range of canned food meals for camping and caravanning holidays.  

“Among the most popular recipes are vegan and vegetarian ideas which use harder to source, or out of season ingredients which are available all year round in cans.” 

Considering recycling, the UK research showed that consumer support for kerbside collection for recycling was strong with 82 per cent of UK respondents citing this as something that needs to be done to recycle more food cans. A similar number, 81 per cent, also supported use of the Metal Recycles Forever logo as a means to help shoppers better understand the key role they have to play in keeping metal in the material loop by recycling their empty food cans. 

The research was commissioned by Metal Packaging Europe from Ipsos Mori to explore consumer perceptions of canned food and metal packaging with around 800 respondents per participating country. Country results have been provided to trade associations in each relevant member country. 

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