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Monday, May 20, 2024

Are we just papering over the cracks?

As the packaging sector switches from plastic to wood-based products, responsible management of the world’s forests has never been more critical.

Arguably, the environment has never been higher up the agenda than it is now. The effects of climate change are becoming ever more tangible and are already impacting many communities; protestors, frustrated at the lack of action, are regularly taking to the streets of towns and cities around the world. At the same time, increased awareness of the scourge of plastics saturating our seas has led to a raft of initiatives aimed at tackling the impacts of the prevailing culture of single-use and disposability.

In the wake of this movement, many brands and retailers are responding by substituting paper and other tree-based materials for plastics, particularly in the realm of packaging, and with good reason; when questioned, UK consumers show a clear preference for paper and cardboard packaging.

In a recent study, in 7 out of 11 categories, consumers stated that they preferred paper/cardboard over glass, metal and plastic packaging (Two Sides). However, the production of paper and other forest products is not without impact. The world’s forests are under threat, destroyed and degraded in pursuit of profit, and this in spite of their amazing potential to lock up carbon and mitigate climate catastrophe. It is imperative, therefore, that organisations making the transition to paper, card or cellulose-based materials consider their environmental impact. Switching from plastic to packaging made from wood pulp can be a positive move. However, if this is not responsibly sourced it can still have a detrimental impact on the environment. Packaging made from forest-fibre has the potential to be both renewable and recyclable/biodegradable, but only when it is responsibly sourced and sensitively processed.

In an FSC-certified forest, trees that are felled must be replanted or allowed to regenerate naturally, the rights of workers and Indigenous Peoples must be respected, and key fauna and flora must be protected. FSC forest management is based on ten fundamental principles for forest stewardship which aim to ensure environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management practices.
Packaging can carry the FSC label if it is produced using FSC-certified materials under a valid FSC chain of custody certificate. Including the FSC label on packaging is a great way to capitalise on one of its key functions: promotion. FSC’s iconic, tick-tree logo is recognised by 55% of consumers in the UK (TNS 2018). What’s more 75% believe it is important for the products they purchase to have been responsibly sourced, with the same proportion expressing a preference for FSC-certified products.
Brands that use FSC-labelled packaging can be granted authorisation to promote it using the FSC trademarks with an FSC Promotional Trademark Licence, thus facilitating online, offline and in-store promotions.

As we collectively work to ensure the health of our planet and its many ecosystems, we must ensure that the changes we make are genuinely positive, based on facts and agreed best practice. The sustainability of materials depends not just on what they are but on how they are made (and on what happens to them at end of life); moving away from plastic, without considering the impacts of alternatives, may simply be papering over the cracks.

For more information visit their website: www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk

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