Inspiration

Sustainability in Packaging: the responsibility lies where?

04 May 2020 —
Print
sustainable packaging

Sustainability is now a priority for businesses across all sectors. It’s being driven largely by greater public awareness and consumer choice. However, maximising sustainability throughout the packaging chain requires ongoing, focused effort from all involved: retailers, the packaging industry, government and end users. Here, John Garner, Antalis Packaging’s Head of Business Development, explores the issues and what we all need to be doing to resolve them.

Sustainability is now a priority for businesses across all sectors. It’s being driven largely by greater public awareness and consumer choice. However, maximising sustainability throughout the packaging chain requires ongoing, focused effort from all involved: retailers, the packaging industry, government and end users. Here, John Garner, Antalis Packaging’s Head of Business Development, explores the issues and what we all need to be doing to resolve them.

Maximising sustainability throughout packaging chain requires ongoing, focused effort from all involved: retailers, the industry, government and end-users. That’s the view of Antalis Packaging’s Head of Business Development, John Garner.

“It’s unusual for me to attend a customer meeting where sustainability isn’t the top of the list of things they want to talk about. It’s being driven largely by greater public awareness and consumer choice. However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that there is a lot of misinformation about packaging that needs to be addressed.

“If real, positive change is to be achieved, the responsibility of ensuring that businesses and end-users are sufficiently informed to be able to make good packaging choices, falls to each of us in the packaging industry.

“It’s a huge task. Public anger about plastics, particularly single-use plastics, is very strong and will be challenging to overcome. But it must be overcome. Work needs to be done to educate and inform people that not all plastics are bad, and, in fact, can often be the most sustainable option: it’s more sustainable to pack something well, in plastic, once, than it is to pack something in a seemingly ‘greener’ transit packaging that fails to provide adequate protection and results in products being returned, creating more transit miles in the supply chain, and therefore more CO2 and environmental impact, than if the right packaging for the job had been used in the first place. Sadly, some businesses are caving into the pressure and would rather bow to popular opinion than have a more informed and potentially challenging discussion with their customers.

“But, of course, there is still a need to look for alternatives to plastics. Our Smart Packaging Centre and our packaging technologists are working with many customers who come to us with ‘sustainability’ as a goal but are unsure how or where to begin. We are able to help them to achieve that goal through a number of means: we can make their packaging reusable (either through returns or closed-loop supply chains); we can reduce their packaging by reengineering the blank size of boxes, or by reducing reliance on void fill with appropriately designed alternative solutions; and, of course, we can help the customer to select recyclable or recycled materials.

With regard to that last point – ‘recyclable’ materials – the industry needs to put pressure on local authorities and central government to work much harder to upgrade our recycling and waste handling infrastructure across the country. Lots of materials are labelled as ‘recyclable’, which is technically true, but the facilities to recycle some of these products are few and far between. We work with our customers to ensure they understand this, but far more end-user education is needed if we are to drive worthwhile investment from government.

Last but certainly not least, the packaging industry has a responsibility to lead innovation and new product development to find solutions to the environmental packaging challenge. At Antalis, the vast majority of our new product development and investment over the last year has been in sustainable solutions. Responding to the push from food retailers and food subscription services for easy-to-recycle solutions, we launched the WrapPak® Protector, a paper-based solution that keeps products cold in transit. We have also been developing our product portfolio with paper-based postal bags with cushioning, bubble-wrap alternatives, and recycled corrugate solutions – most of the things a consumer might need to develop a green product strategy.

We also work with our environmental partners to offer carbon-balancing and offsetting across all products in the Antalis range. These simple schemes support reforestation projects and ensure that at-risk areas of rain forest and endangered ecologies are protected – assuring the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and giving assurance that the brand is responsible and is contributing in a credible and authentic way. As well as other projects supporting reforestation.

What’s clear, as far as I can see, is that there’s no silver bullet for a problem that we all need to step up to, but one thing is for sure – we can’t shirk responsibility and wait for someone or something to fix it. All of us in this industry need to work every day, in every way, to have an impact wherever we can. The responsibility lies with all of us.”

For help creating sustainable packaging solutions for your business, arrange a free packaging consulation with one of our experts.

 

 

Related articles

Services provided

img-home-service-smart-esolution.jpgImplementation of an e-business solution via webcam.

img-home-service-smart-consult.jpgWe'll help develop the right packaging solutions to solve your business challenges