Plastics are in the news, pretty much everywhere you look, in the media, FB, Linked In, You Tube, and blog posts. We see brand owners committing to eliminate their plastic packaging and replace it with other materials. The packaging industry responds by presenting studies and reports that caution against the negative carbon footprint of replacing plastics with even more harmful materials.
It is a complex issue because there are so many factors to consider. However, I think all this attention has had a huge benefit in making us all aware of the impact we have on the environment. It has sensitized us to the fact that how we behave does make a difference.
Recently, an acquaintance mentioned that he knows of people who will not pay $.05 for a plastic shopping bag. While I agree hitting people in the wallet is the fastest way to get attention, I wonder if $.05 is enough of a cost to do this. Perhaps, when asked to pay for the bag, it simply makes us stop and think whether we really need one. A few years ago, it would have been automatic for the teller to put your purchase in a bag, even if it was only one small item. We just never thought about it.
It may also have made us recognize just how much of this material we use on a daily basis, from stretch wrap for leftovers to zip lock bags for storage. It has also made us aware of just how integral plastics have become in the manufacture of just about everything; our clothes, products, toys, electronics, parts and even our vehicles.
What is encouraging is to see that this increased awareness has led to reduction, which has always been the first R in the packaging waste hierarchy. Reduction can come in many forms. The most effective is through elimination completely, to not use it at all. The next is to reduce the amount used either through product concentration, changing the size and structure of the package, or via material reduction or replacement. The drive to reduce is actually a contributing factor as to why plastics have become so common. Plastics are durable, pliable, and lightweight, so they often present the most practical option.
As a product manufacturer you have the sustainability challenge on a number of fronts. Whether you produce food or non-food products, you need to be thinking about the environmental impact of your product right from the sourcing of ingredients through to consumer use. Your packaging is definitely part of this equation.
Our article, How to Explain Why You Use Plastic Packaging for Your Food Product, suggests you assess your packaging material choice, then communicate it clearly to your consumers. This can apply to any type of package you have chosen, regardless of the material.
If you are in the process of assessing your materials for sustainability, you may want to consider some of the following examples of what other companies have done to reduce their packaging footprint.
Package size reduction
Concentrated formulas offer the opportunity to reduce the size of the package or to put more product in the same size of packaging. This is not a new concept but effective and, if feasible, should be the first consideration when assessing products for sustainability. The challenge is consumer acceptance but with good branding and messaging, this approach can be a competitive advantage.
Image Seventh Generation
Elimination of foil wrap on dishwasher tablets – While the tablet is still wrapped, Finish replaced the foil with a dissolvable wrap. No more loose foil pieces to deal with.
Carlsberg’s Snap Pack – the plastic ring was eliminated and replaced with glue and a handle strap, using minimal plastic.
Image Carlsberg Group
Refills for rigid containers – flexible pouches use less material and take less space during transportation. These refills encourage consumers to reuse the rigid containers again and again.
Image USA Packaging Direct
These are just a few of the initiatives that companies are taking to reduce their packaging carbon footprint. For more information on how to design your packaging for sustainability, read our blog articles here - https://packyourproduct.com/category/sustainable-packaging/.