Packaging Under Siege - Why fact-based decisions are key to true sustainability in packaging
Packaging is everywhere. It’s fundamental to a consumer lifestyle, so it’s hard to imagine life without it. It serves to contain, protect, preserve and market products. It enables products to arrive from any part of the planet and reach your table. It sustains the quality of products over prolonged periods of time without losing quality, thus reducing losses. Nevertheless, packaging, particularly plastic packaging, has developed a bad reputation when it comes to its environmental impact. The media floods us with images of once beautiful beaches, now resembling landfills, and vulnerable ocean animals dying after swallowing plastic packaging. Our immense consumption of packaging also depletes non-renewable resources. This is an unsustainable state of affairs.
Packaging recycling targets from the European Commission stipulate that we must reach a recycling rate of 65% of municipal waste by 2035 and 75% of packaging waste by 2030. By 2030, we also have to reduce the waste ending up in landfills by at least 10% for municipal waste and 100% for separately collected waste.1 With China’s recent import ban on plastic waste,2 large companies and associations will change how they treat waste and packaging.
Other, country-specific regulations tighten the corset around packaging producers, designers and users. But what sounds like a threat for the market is actually a chance to change our approach to packaging—how we design, use and dispose of it. It is a chance to rethink our packaging choices, the materials we use, how much we use and even if we need it at all. The process of rethinking and redesigning will help support us in our inevitable movement toward a truly circular economy and lower our consumption of virgin resources. Innovative and (self-declared) sustainable packaging solutions have sprung up in recent years, encompassing a range of focal points, from reuseable and refillable packages via entirely new materials, all the way to stores establishing plastic-free aisles3 and packaging-free stores.4 A recent article5 focused on the consumer’s participation in succeeding with innovative recycling actions and trackable and/or refillable packaging. But we believe success hinges on more than that.