Sustainable packaging without paying a green premium
Packaging is a critical component of a products supply chain and serves a specific purpose in its protection, distribution and marketing. It helps reduce waste and spoilage that would occur without it and communicates a products key attributes.
However, because packaging fulfils its function before the use phase of the product it protects, and is then discarded, it is often considered a nuisance product and the rigid and flexible plastic producers often get criticism for the products they produce from both governments and the public. This is mostly unjustified as the visibility of plastic waste is largely due to irresponsible littering and the lack of recycling facilities that are easily accessed by the public.
In my experience most plastic producers genuinely want to address these issues both from a moral standpoint and from a business one. There is little they can do about the two issues of littering and recycling facilities, but there are a number of different solutions to the perception of plastics in the public’s eye as well as the environmental aspects of a product that is perceived as using up natural resources and difficult to dispose of after its purpose has been fulfilled.
Such products as bioplastics, oxo degradable & anaerobic additives and other products are available but this market area is often criticised on the grounds of green washing.
My view to these products, whatever the pros and cons of the products being marketed, is that something is better than nothing. As time goes on, a clear favourite will emerge that may not even have been invented yet but for now, almost anyone of these products in its right place should be used.
Why are they not more widely used? In my experience, Retailers as well as some plastic product manufacturers put cost at the top of the list of reasons to do nothing. Everyone wants to get cost out of their business, not add it. It is easier to say their product is recyclable – which for the most part, they are. However are they being recycled? In the case of flexible packaging the answer is that most are not, (there are 398 local authorities, each with a different approach to waste) so until an easily accessible and affordable recycling system is in place, a solution to the enormous quantities of post-consumer plastic packaging needs addressing.
There are various objections to each technology on the market that have claims to have a solution to post-consumer plastic. The pros and cons are widely debated and I have no interest in joining those debates. In my view, each technology has its place and they should be embraced, as they are all better than doing nothing.
The message that I hear however, is that there seem to be two aspects that the end users like.
- Sustainability. They like a product that is harvested not mined.
- Reduced use of oil based resins.
Growing crops that are renewable is, to a degree, sustainable. Light weighting reduces the amount of oil based resins. The former still has the price issue, and the latter has a limit as to how far you can go and still produce a functional product.
So what if there was a product that came from a genuinely sustainable source: A product that is mostly from the waste stream of an existing industry that would otherwise be thrown away and there is a constant source of the material. No land or resources used that could otherwise be used for food production.
And that this product could reduce the use of oil based resins by up to 40% thus reducing the use of a non-renewable source.
And what if this product also silenced the number one objection of price? i.e. not paying a green premium (people paying more because it’s green) but being able to offer a green differentiation, (meaning if a customer has two choices that provide the same performance but one is renewable and sustainable).
If it could be used for flexible HDPE & LDPE films and rigid HDPE, Polypropylene & Polystyrene and when it is blended with conventional synthetic polymers, it creates a durable bio-plastic that can be used to make extruded, thermo-formed and injection-moulded items.
So I went in search of such a product. It took some time. Almost all were easily discarded because the primary criteria that it must not increase the price of the end product could not be met.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I think I have found it. So if a retailer or plastic producer wants to try to address the environmental issues relating to plastics and plastic packaging without paying a green premium as well as using a renewable and sustainable product, please contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org