Sustainable Packaging

Remove, Reduce, Recycle, Renew, Re-use. These are five of the original 7 R’s of Sustainable Packaging revealed by Wal-Mart when it introduced its Packaging Scorecard to a standing-room only audience at Pack Expo 2006. The mega-retailer has since shortened the list to reduce, reuse and recycle, but also added a new term, rethink, to encourage companies to always remember to consider smarter sustainable options.Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging came to light in 2006, after publication of “The Triple Bottom Line: How Today’s Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success – and How You Can Too” by Andrew Savitz with Karl Weber, which describes as “the groundbreaking book that charts the rise of sustainability within the business world and shows how and why financial success increasingly goes hand in hand with social and environmental achievement.”

To get a clearer understanding of sustainable packaging, it’s important to understand what ‘sustainability’ is, and how it’s different from the focus in the 1970’s on the environmental aspects and how it impacts packaging.

The basis for sustainable packaging started during the environmental movement in the 1970s. As Americans celebrated their first Earth Day in 1970, they became aware of some of our ecological problems such as pollution and littering through various media outlets. One of the most powerful messages came from The Crying Indian anti-litter commercial from Keep America Beautiful.

The concept of sustainable packaging isn’t difficult to grasp though it is complex. Is it as simple as replacing a rigid container with a pouch? Or removing a carton and letting a tube of toothpaste stand on its own next to a packaged toothbrush? Is it eliminating single-serve items, which is now wildly popular, and reverting to bulk packaging? How about using PET instead of PVC because PET is more easily recycled? Or, when it comes to the products on the line, does it involve faster set-up times to minimize the amount of product and packaging waste? The answer to all of these questions is yes – and more.

Companies that employ sustainable packaging practices are no longer focused on just recycling. Just as packaging is not the only eco target of many, it is still a high priority within manufacturing and packaging industries. Unfortunately, packaging is often scrutinized and used as the measure of a company’s overall sustainability, even though it may contribute to a small percentage of the total eco impact compared to other things, such as transportation, water and energy use, all of which reflect a company’s overall carbon footprint.

Here are three factors we feel will positively affect sustainable packaging in the future:

  • Technological advances in green packaging materials that reduce the harmful toxicants that contribute to global warming will eventually lead to brighter outcomes in our collective quest to slow the harmful effects of climate change.
  • Spurred by environmental concerns and powerful, effective regulatory policies put in place by governments, demand for eco-friendly packaging will increase significantly.
  • A regional analysis shows that the United States is leading the way in spreading the adoption of eco-friendly policies, with several companies leading the charge to make them more palatable to the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Several nations in the Asia-Pacific region are also considered to be among those offering lucrative solutions to the green packaging arena.

Sustainable packaging materials can include:

  • Corn starch — Corn starch-made items are biodegradable. They are ideal for all types of food packaging. The package can be sent via post as well. Packages made out of corn starch have limited or no negative impact on the environment.
  • Cardboard and paper — They are biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable. Paperboards are lightweight, yet strong. They can be used to pack products ranging from medicines to frozen food to cosmetics. A pizza box constructed out of corrugated boards helps to retain the heat and freshness of the pizza for a short time.
  • Biodegradable plastic — When exposed to sunlight, the biodegradable plastic decomposes. It is also used to make envelopes that are usually used for bulk mailing. Biodegradable plastic is a viable and practical alternative to traditional plastics.

As you begin to switch to sustainable packaging solutions, it may be necessary to investigate different equipment for your printing and coding needs. At Griffin-Rutgers, we can help. Give us a call, and we can assist you in finding the precise equipment for your needs.

Posted in Packaging Coding Systems.