Raconteur

Future of Packaging 2020

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R A C O N T E U R . N E T 07 nnecessary plastic waste remains a key contributor to climate change and it is undeniable that more must be done to tackle the issue to protect our planet from further damage. However, sustainability within packaging is complex and cannot be neatly solved by simply swapping plastic for an alternative material. There are many factors that need to be considered when determining whether a product offers a truly eco- friendly solution. It can be easy to forget that plas - tic is often incorporated into pack- aging to perform an important role: to protect the product inside. This is particularly important in industries such as the food and pharmaceuti- cal sectors, where minimising waste that could have a damaging impact on the environment is key. Any material that is used to replace plastic in packaging for perishable products must offer the same pro- tective qualities or the purpose is entirely defeated. The life cycle of materials must also be considered. Throwaway plastic packaging makes up 40 per cent of our demand for the mate- rial, with two thirds of plastic pro- duced being released into the envi- ronment and staying there. This is clearly not sustainable. However, the solution is more con- voluted than simply replacing plastic with a material that is perceived to be "green". In recent years we have seen a move towards reusable packaging, with retailers such as Waitrose and Lush introducing refillable packag- ing options in their stores. It's important that we weigh up the credentials of a recyclable solu- tion against packaging that can be used hundreds, or even thousands, of times over to establish what truly offers the most environmentally friendly solution. Finally, and perhaps most impor- tantly, it is essential the carbon used to produce a product is consid- ered before we make judgments on whether a material is genuinely sus- tainable. Plastic remains among the most energy-intensive materials to make and many alternatives offer a far more carbon-efficient alternative. But to determine which materials are truly sustainable, we must look at the bigger picture and consider the amount of carbon that is used at every point of the supply chain. For example, if a company creates a paper alternative that weighs more than their original plastic packaging, they have twice as much material to produce, transport and dispose of at the end of its life, all of which comes at a high cost for the environment. It's a complex and multifaceted equation, but one that must be con - sidered if we are to move towards a carbon-efficient world. Justin Kempson, director of sales and innovation at Charpak, says: ''Research shows the entire life-cy- cle carbon footprint of recycled plas- tics is the least impactful. Plastics must become circular to prevent packaging waste. Existing resources must be recovered and reused to reduce new materials production. Where packaging is necessary, a cir- cular model is the most sustaina- ble solution, with a far lower carbon impact, no matter which material.'' At the last edition of our Packaging Innovations show in Birmingham, 20 per cent of visitors said they were looking for sustainable design, but 32 per cent said they look for biode- gradable plastics. Plastic can still be the material of choice; it's about where it has come from and what happens to it after use. The shift in focus away from demonising plastic and towards cre- ating packaging that is truly sus- tainable throughout its life cycle can be felt across the entire industry and will continue to take centre stage despite the other challenges 2020 has brought us. It is an intricate and challenging problem that will require the whole supply chain, both for packaging and the products inside, to work together and focus on delivering solutions for the right reasons. It has become much more apparent that we are fighting a war on waste, not on plastic. 'We must consider the amount of carbon that is used at every point of the supply chain' U O P I N I O N Alessandra Leonard Marketing project manager Packaging portfolio, Easyfairs It's here to talk about solutions. This advert is not here to talk about the problem of plastic pollution. Coming soon: The Upstream Innovation Guide Rethinking the packaging, the product, and the system to solve plastic pollution before it starts Sign up to receive your FREE copy before the ocial launch in November C M Y CM MY CY CMY K EMF_Raconteur_Half-page_CMYK.pdf 14 17/09/2020 12:03

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