Sustainable Packaging: Making A Difference?

Sustainable packaging design is one viable way of providing packaging that is environmentally smart and responsible. Ideally, minimal to no packaging is ideal, but not always practical. So alternatively, choosing carefully choosing packaged products for purchase can make a difference in how we preserve our resources.

Sustainable packaging, like the word ‘sustainable’ is loosely defined, but can be used to described packaging or container materials that are either biodegradable, organic, ecologically harvested and manufactured, recycled, up cycled or a combination thereof.

The pictured innovative egg carton design ditches the Styrofoam standard and uses coconut fibers, a natural biodegradable material, perhaps the byproduct from a coconut water or meat processing company, which otherwise would have been perceived as waste.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is a group that is dedicated to developing and implementing sustainable packaging. It is a GreenBlue project and GreenBlue is a nonprofit Organization that helps businesses use their resources in order to deliver to products that are more sustainable.

The SPC project’s main aim is to develop a packaging system that is both economical and promote usage of sustainable materials. Such sustainable materials are highly debatable.

The founding members of the SPC are the Starbucks Coffee Company, the Dow Chemical Company, Nike, Unilever, EvCo Research, NatureWorks (formerly known as Cargill Dow LLC), Priority Metrics, The Estee Lauder Companies and MWV (formerly known as MeadWestvaco).

Members of the SPC include huge names in the industry including McDonald’s, The Coca Cola Company, the BASF Corporation, Dell DuPont, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, the Kellogg Company, Microsoft and UPS. The very ‘un-sustainable’ core products of many of these companies, makes their membership exude a bit of greenwashing.

Yet how effective is sustainable packaging in reducing the waste that comes from the very products they wrap? Is this a step in the right direction or an effective mask duping consumers into thinking their doing good by “going green.”

When although the SPC may have their own sets standards, shared with the world, when it comes down to reality, sustainability is truly defined by common sense and a little probing into the start-to-end cycle of both the packaging and product at hand. Just because McDonald’s Amazon beef is wrapped in a SPC approved packaging, doesn’t make it truly sustainable.

The SPC has defined sustainable packaging through a total of eight requirements. Sustainable packaging is a safe and healthy packaging solution. During the life cycle of the packaging, it will cause no harm to either an individual or community and It must be produced from only healthy materials.

Sustainable packaging must meet the cost and performance criteria set out by the industry. All packaging must be sourced, produced as well as transported and recycled by the use of renewable energy sources.

All sustainable packaging must be produced using only ‘clean’ technologies and practices, and must be designed in such a way that the materials and energy used, is used to the fullest. Optimization in terms of re-usability and recycling is also essential.

Lastly, sustainable packaging must be recovered and used in biological and industrial so-called ‘closed loop cycles’.

True sustainable packaging used has at least some bettering interest to not only you and your health, but the environment as well. It is up to society to define and dictate these desires, not rely on other entities to set a sustainable packaging standard, to literally cover up unsustainable products.

There is a wide range of more eco-friendly packaging solutions available on the market today, including biodegradable packaging, packaging made from renewable resources as well as recycled packaging. Society has hope in the fact that consumers tend to embrace the idea of sustainable packaging, so long that it does not inconvenience their consumption process. As buying local and other consumption habits adapt to a truly green lifestyle sustainable packaging can surely evolve as well. -ANNABEL SCHOEMAN

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