“Perfect conditions to shift attitudes to shopping, cooking and packaging”
The waste and resource industry must keep up with technology driven changes to the way in which consumers behave and an increasing move towards a ‘click and collect’ culture, according to a new report commissioned by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).
The report, Digital technology and consumer trends: future scenarios for waste and resource management, explores how advances in digital technology are changing how and what we consume and driving supply chain innovation, with particular reference to packaging and the grocery sector.
In addition to changing consumer behaviour the report found that is the potential for a significant shift in responsibility for, and influence on, wastes and resources towards manufacturers, suppliers and brands.
The author, consultant John Twitchen, identified a number of strengthening trends:
- Consumers are showing a greater propensity to shop online that in many other countries around the world
- Online grocery sales are on the rise and new entrants in the marketplace are driving innovation and competition, particularly on the delivery front
- The Internet of Things means smart, interactive technology is moving into the home and changing the way we buy things
- New ways of purchasing food, for example in the form of pre-measured ingredients for a specific meal, are on the increase.
According to the report, retailers and brands, which are both enabling and responding to these trends, are developing a more ‘personal’ relationship with their customers and there are signs of a shift in responsibility for, and influence on, wastes and resources up the product supply chain.
“Co-op is already doing a lot of work on recyclability of packaging and resource efficiency, so for us, it’s important to understand how these shifts in consumption patterns will change the way we engage with consumers and also what the resource implications may be,” commented Sarah Wakefield, food sustainability manager at the Co-op and member of the steering group for the report.
While data provided by Valpak for the report showed that these new trends and disruptive consumption models are not yet translating into significant changes in packaging design and waste, the scenarios examined by retail and design experts for the report highlight the potential for radical change in the future.For example as the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ approach is replaced by ‘dark stores’ dedicated to servicing ‘click & collect’ and home delivery customers.
“Add into the mix new entrants into the grocery home delivery market and an Internet of Things that is picking up the pace, and we have the perfect conditions to shift attitudes to shopping, cooking and packaging – and how the leftovers are collected and used. It’s a really exciting time,” commented report author John Twitchen.
According to CIWM’s 2016/17 President, Professor Margaret Bates the ‘tipping point’ has not yet been reached, but the waste and recycling industry needs to be thinking about a different future.
“Over the next 30 years, what we consume, how we consume it – both where and when – and what resources are used and wasted will continue to change,” she argued. “This will influence the types and volumes of waste for which our sector has to plan and present new opportunities to improve resource efficiency.”
However, the report suggested that these opportunities will only be fully realised if we have better data to inform planning and evidence-based policy making, and more ‘collective responsibility’ across the supply chain.
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