How Green Is My Package?

“Green packaging” is the new buzzword for companies that have analyzed their packaging methods, materials, and procedures, and come up with an environmentally friendly and effective solution. It means environmental factors have been taken into account in packaging decisions.

As a result, green packaging is mainly about using fewer resources or using materials that are reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable—in other words, using materials preferable to our environment in order to make them “green.” When designing packaging, consider several key factors:

Materials: In addition to using more environmentally preferable materials, develop packaging with reduced environmental inputs (energy, materials).

Dimensional efficiency: Consider the relationship of surface product/sales area, mass and volume of the packaging, and product. Take into account any clear empty space that could be reduced in volume. When applied to the whole packaging system (secondary, tertiary, and so on), this can improve logistical efficiency and, thus, carbon emissions.

Information and claims: Packaging is a vector of information to the consumer. Assess environmental claims and information that help consumers at packaging end of life or to check the credibility of any information provided.

Consumption and residues: Estimate the ability to easily open and reseal the package in the case of marginal use.

End of life: Take into account the ability of the packaging to be recycled, recovered thermally or biologically.

Why Green Packaging?

There are many reasons an organization may wish to utilize these tools. First, there is the issue of compliance, and within this area, there is scope for environmental and economic cost savings. There are many EU, U.K., and global regulations, which set environmental requirements. Below is a summary of the regulations that are the most relevant to packaging:

Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007

Every EU member state sets stringent recycling and recovery targets that must be met. To meet these challenges, the EU puts pressure on industry and organizations to change the way consumer goods are packaged. The EU charges for every piece of packaging put on the market. The more packaging an organization uses and the heavier that packaging is, the more the organization has to pay. Reducing primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging ultimately saves organizations money and benefits the environment through waste reduction and resource conservation. In order to reduce packaging, an organization must understand areas of potential improvement, which can be done through some form of life cycle analysis.

EU Landfill Directive

Throughout the EU, it is becoming increasingly expensive to dispose of certain wastes by traditional means. For example, the standard rate landfill tax in the U.K. is £8 a year per tonne until at least 2014 This will have a significant effect on waste carriers, who will then pass the charges on to their clients.

The more packaging material an organization reduces when placing products on the market, and the more materials an organization makes available for reuse or recycling, the lower the disposal costs will be for end users and distributors. These costs can be passed down the supply chain, making a specific packaged product more appealing and valuable to the consumer or distributor, who benefits from reduced packaging and waste costs.

Historically, taking such an approach may have brought extra costs to an organization, and only those wishing to define themselves as responsible or “green” would have taken up the idea of green packaging. Today, however, companies are increasingly realizing that not only does a green packaging strategy add value to their product, in terms of its consumer saleability and marketability, it also has the advantage of saving costs, from a reduction in the use of raw materials to a reduction in processing costs. This has made the idea of green packaging more realistic and applicable, with environmental and economic factors considered together in packaging design decisions. An organization must now fully understand the life cycle of its packaging, which can present difficulties for any company.

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