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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Packaging: the seven pillars of sustainability

In discussions about the future of our planet, packaging has one of the loudest voices. But what does the future of packaging hold?

At Parkside, we’re guided by our ‘Sustainable 7’ – seven principles that we apply to every job we take on. Here’s how these seven pillars help us build a more sustainable future for packaging – and our planet.

Material reduction

Consumers are already tired of over-packaging, so it’s safe to say bulky corrugated boxes filled with air and near-impenetrable sealed blister packs have no place in the future. In addition to making packaging more circular and less linear, the industry must simply consume fewer materials in absolute terms, too.

Flexible packaging is the minimal-material format of today and tomorrow as it inherently uses fewer materials than rigid packaging. As lightweighting techniques grow more advanced, flexible packaging will only become thinner and lighter without compromising performance.

Plastic removal

Plastics are increasingly under the microscope in our planet’s sustainability story. Single-use plastics, in particular, are in focus, with governments in several national markets passing laws designed to limit or outright ban their use.

Canada, Spain, France, India, and several US states have passed laws banning many categories of single use plastics, with the UK set to follow suit later this year. While plastics do still have some utility – for example, as a high-performance oxygen barrier in food contact applications to extend shelf life – this makes it all the more important to eliminate unnecessary plastic use where possible by switching to renewable alternatives, such as Parkside’s Recoflex™ Paper HB solution.

Recyclability

Making flexible packaging more recyclable is core to the sustainability strategies of the future. Current multi-polymer designs make use of layers of plastics sandwiched together, which makes post-use recycling impossible. Phasing these out in favour of comparable monopolymer materials makes a recyclable, circular future possible as recycling becomes much simpler and more cost-effective.

Renewable materials

Plastic is usually made using fossil fuels. As a result, it is a finite resource. While plastic will always have an essential role to play for certain applications due to its inherent advantages, replacing fossil fuel-based materials with renewable alternatives, like paper-based packaging and biopolymer films, when possible will help brands reduce their fossil fuel consumption and provide consumers with alternative disposal options.

Food waste reduction

Reducing reliance on plastics and other packaging materials is a priority, but it must not be done at the expense of pack performance. Food waste accounts for more carbon emissions than every country on Earth apart from China and the USA. Packaging is meant to prevent waste by protecting products through the supply chain – if it fails, it will only add to the food waste crisis.

Carbon footprint

As the world endeavours to meet net zero goals, the net carbon footprint of new and alternative materials must be measured on a case-by-case basis. All packaging materials, not just plastics, and designs must be considered against food waste and all other factors to gauge their overall impact – positive or negative – on carbon emissions.

Reuse and refill

The phasing out of the take-make-waste model extends to the idea of disposable packaging itself. Packaging solutions that are durable enough to be refilled and used again and again are growing in prominence. And, by incorporating lightweighted flexible packaging into their product lines, manufacturers have a lower-emission solution ready for the logistics needs of tomorrow.

Parkside specialises in sustainable flexible packaging solutions for FMCG products. To learn more, visit www.parksideflex.com.

 

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