In most instances, packaging (whatever it may be) is an inseparable part of actual product marketing. In other words proper packaging helps sell a given product. Product sustainability is one of those terms that one could hear thrown around all over the place. Green products, ecofriendly packaging etc. are all valid concepts but are they actually put into practice? In the case of product packaging, business and environment don’t always go hand in hand. Sustainable packaging in the true sense of the word is still largely unavailable, and by the looks of it, won’t be anytime soon. Despite massive recycling campaigns on all levels, attempts to educate the public and try and change company ways, most of the everyday product packaging people buy and use is mostly unrecyclable and ends up and solid waste which can’t really be reprocessed into something useful. Market research shows that certain number of consumers are highly concerned about the origin and recyclability of packaging of products they buy, and that to a large extent influences their consumer choices.
Fact of the matter is that, companies simply aren’t too concerned about the environmental impact and eco friendliness of their product packaging, one of the main reasons being that packaging accounts only for a small portion of a given product’s environmental impact. Although green or sustainable packaging materials and technologies are available, many manufacturers choose to ignore it, and commit the same packaging mistakes year after year. For most companies, packaging boils down to two things – will it drive more customers toward the product in question, and how much does it cost. These two priorities overshadow environmental awareness when it comes to packaging. Below are listed some of the worst examples of product packaging when it comes to sustainability.
The Chip Bag – the average chips bag is actually made of up to seven layers of metal and plastic foil. Manufacturers are quite fond of using such packaging because it is very lightweight, greatly reduces shipping volume, doesn’t take up much room when stored on a shelf, and happens to be graphics friendly – good for marketing. Currently however, there is no machine or technology used for separation of the different layers of plastic or foil the chips bag is made of, which in turn makes this type of product packaging un-recyclable. Even if there was a way to separate and recycle such product packaging, it would be expensive, and ultimately there is no market for these particular recycled materials (even if one was willing to foot the bill for recycling). Unless there is a sufficiently large demand or market for the recycled material, it won’t get recycled. Multi layered packaging is a favourite of many snacks giants all over the world. At the same time, multi layered packaging is considered worst of the worst when it comes to recycling as mixed materials (in this case metal foil and plastic) devalue the end recyclate.
If there is a will to address and deal with the problem of multi layered packaging, there are some options available. One would be to change manufacturing process in favour of simpler layered packaging. Another is to educate the public and introduce the concept of upcycling, which is basically reusing the given piece of packaging without breaking it down, back to its basic materials. Best strategy to deal with the situation is a change of manufacturing technology and consumer habits and choices. Some companies and their products reflect efforts to make packaging sustainable, and use very few multi layered packages, good example are cereal boxes.