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Have you heard that buzz word going around the internet these days? Sustainability. In ecology, sustainability is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. That's a mouth full but it means to be able to be maintained at a certain rate or level. For packaging that means forever. Recycled and renewable resources play a larger part here. Let's take a look at the definition of sustainable packaging from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
Sustainable packaging is defined as:
- Beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
- Meets market criteria for performance and cost
- Sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
- Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
- Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
- Made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
- Physically designed to optimize materials and energy
- Effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles
Taking pollution down to zero...
Consumers are demanding more sustainable packaging options, made from fewer resources. Manufacturers are demanding cost savings measures that won’t sacrifice quality, protection, or production levels. According a report from the US plastics industry, the 87 million Millennials will be a key driver for plastic packaging. Millennials prefer healthy and convenient food and beverages that come in packaging which are easily opened, can be resealed for later use, and offer recyclability.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the industry: don’t forget that plastic bag bans are still being implemented. “Concerns about the environmental impact of plastics linger in the background,” the report states.
Supporting sustainable packaging
Today’s thin, high-strength shrink films often make it possible to reduce film gauge. They also use less materials and realize cost savings without sacrificing protection or shelf appeal. Here's an example. If you’ve always used 60-gauge film, you could potentially reduce materials by up to 25% by down-gauging to 50- or even 45-gauge options.
Why is this so important in terms of sustainability? From the typical extrusion products, the raw materials cause the highest portion of the overall CO2 emissions. This is the reason why savings in raw materials by means of downgauging have a direct and positive impact on the CO2 balance:
- Saving natural resources
- Direct reduction of CO2 emissions during product manufacturing
- Additional reduction of CO2 emissions during transport
- Cost reduction
This use of leaner, lighter materials is a quick and easy way to make a sustainable change and reduce the amount of packaging. But it is critical to conduct drop, strength, and other performance tests just to make sure you are not making unanticipated tradeoffs in throughput, strength, and product protection.
The best way to support sustainable packaging is to purchase biodegradable and recycled products.
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