Sustainable Packaging as Much a Destination as It Is a Journey
If familiarity ultimately breeds resentment and contempt, there may be truth to the notion that the flood of industry reports, studies and action plans releases by governments, corporations and NGO (nongovernmental organization) activists on packaging sustainability and circularity my be doing more harm than good in the long term by simply wearing out the public interest in what should be a top-of-mind issue.
But consistently pointing out how bad things really are with the environment and how little time we have to fix it, the authors of these widely-publicized reports run the risk of simply spooking the general public into a state of defeatist resignation—based on the notion that all hope is lost—rather than energizing industry and consumers to redouble their sustainability efforts.
Fortunately, a new white paper from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, offers a healthy dose of practical advice on how to accelerate the industry’s collective efforts to lower its collective carbon footprint, rather than just preach to the converted.
Released just in time for the upcoming PACK EXPO International 2022 packaging-technologies and materials exhibition in Chicago, the 2002 Achieving Packaging Sustainability report outlines clear and concise five-pillar action plan that focuses on end solutions instead of the obstacles facing them and rightly so: we are all far beyond the problem acknowledgment stage by now.
As the study proclaims, “There isn’t a discussion to be had about the validity of reducing the carbon footprint across the global CPG industry.
“It goes without saying that we need to strive for it, as does every industrial sector. It doesn’t only benefit the environment, after all.”
Says PMMI: “Sustainability presents an opportunity for businesses facing increasing competitive and economic pressures to gain value and competitive advantage as they respond to environmental concerns and the pressures of resource scarcity, population growth and higher and more varied consumer expectations.
“But how to go about it is the challenge,” PMMI acknowledges.
Naturally, it’s a challenge that will have to be collectively addressed by all stakeholders, but always blaming the government for the lack of coherent recycling policies, or consumers for making wrong choices in the grocery aisles, is an outdated refrain that will not get the packaging industry very far.
Leading by example, however, can provide the inspirational spark the CPG industry needs to get moving into the direction of a truly circular economy.
As the report soundly points out, packaging machinery OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) have a critical role to play in getting the industry moving on the fast track by helping their end user reduce the costs of their switch to more sustainable materials and packaging formats through further automation and compatibility with new-generation packaging materials made from a wide range of natural and recovered feedstocks.
“The fact is that CPGs cannot achieve true sustainability unless the OEMs and packaging manufacturers that supply them get involved,” says the report, citing global packaging machinery manufacturer Syntegon Technology as a case in point.
Nor only is the company installing LED lighting and solar panels at its plants, it is also designing its new CNC machines to use as little cutting oil as possible—further reducing the overall carbon footprint downstream.
“Syntegon has been looking into paper forming, where they are trying to find a way to replace blister packs using paper, as well as to reduce energy consumption of their machines—such as by reducing the use of energy intensive hot glue in packaging operations with the use of lock-forming,” the report notes.
“OEMs also have a crucial part to play in energy-saving in the industry,” PMMI says, noting increasing calls in Europe for introduction of mandatory carbon footprint ratings for all new machines.
“There doesn’t appear to be a clamor as yet for this measure in America,” PMMI says, “but the baton will likely be taken up in the not-too-distant future.”
And frankly, the earlier the better.