The packaging industry has long suffered from a bad reputation for its heavy reliance on unsustainable raw materials. Whether this relates to cardboard or plastic packaging, every packaging option has an environmental impact.
Consumers are increasingly conscious about the amount of packaging that is used to protect and display products. However, many people do not appreciate the effort that goes into ensuring that products leave production facilities and arrive with the consumer in the same condition. It is also often overlooked that all packaging materials have positive and negative attributes when it comes to sustainability, primarily because all packaging needs raw materials, processing and transportation before they are even applied to a product.
The Importance Of Product Packaging
Without proper commercial packaging solutions consumers would almost certainly become upset by damaged items or perishable goods that have gone off. Product wastage is a massive sustainability issue, so packaging actually plays a key role in key issues like food sustainability. Clearly there is a balance to be found between providing adequate packaging with proper levels of protection and considering the environmental footprint of the product packaging material itself.
There are many new packaging options that have recently been adopted to try and address sustainability issues in the supply chain. Of course, all packaging will be deemed bad in the eyes of some consumers. However, some of the sustainable packaging solutions available today can make a reasonable claim to be better for the environment than the packaging products they have replaced. How do such packaging options achieve a better level of environmental protection?
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Sustainable Raw Materials
These days, manufacturers need to be somewhat flexible with their packaging requirements. As customer preferences change, so must packaging methods. Companies like Kempner can provide modern packaging solutions that utilise the most up-to-date plastic packaging technologies and materials available. One such example is sugarcane-derived Polyolefin.
Although much of the packaging material you will find in commercial use today is plastic, it no longer needs to be derived fully from fossil fuels. Alternative materials can now be included in plastic products to reduce carbon footprints and even produce carbon neutral plastic films.
Polyolefin films can now be made to contain naturally occurring sugars alongside the conventional polymers. This is revolutionary because sugarcane Polyolefin provides the same benefits as conventional plastic films with no discernible drop in quality. However, the film itself is relatively environmentally friendly because it is part-derived from a renewable crop. This means that the carbon captured in the growth of the raw materials offsets some of the carbon required to produce the material. Great news for the carbon footprint of the plastic packaging industry.
Recycled and Recyclable Material
Another important aspect of the sort of ethical packaging material you will see around today is that it can also be made from recycled material. Films used for protection and display purposes can be derived from more recycled material, sometimes around a third of the mass of the film. There are still many issues around the disposal and recycling of shrink wrap materials; however there are also some new technologies that can claim to be functionally biodegradable.
Advancements in the materials that we can produce using modern techniques mean that packaging materials like shrinkwrap can be made thinner than ever before. This means that the shrink wrap packaging can deliver the same protective properties with significantly less material, resulting in less wastage throughout the life cycle of the material. Combined, the inclusion of sustainable materials and the development of thinner plastic films are positive for the plastic packaging industry.
It is the responsibility of manufacturers to make better use of sustainable packaging. However consumers have the power to drive change by choosing products that have the least negative impact on our natural environment. In order to make informed decisions, consumers must appreciate the positive and negative attributes of a packaging material and contrast those with the positive and negative attributes of the alternatives.
Non-profit organisations, like OPRL, help to maintain environmental standards in the packaging industry and members of it are a benchmark of quality with sustainable packaging solutions. Businesses will always need to package their products and consumers will always need their goods to be packaged. However the choices they make can have a big impact on the sustainability of the environment.
Kempner offers a range of modern packaging solutions including that are compatible with a wide range of environmentally responsible plastic films. The company has been operating for over 40 years, and continues to help customers find the most economical packaging machinery and shrink wrap films.