Environmental concerns like deforestation, packaging waste, bio-degradation problem and carbon emissions are adversely affecting environment due to packaging practices of companies worldwide. The use of biodegradable and sustainable materials, have a growing impact on package design and materials sourcing across all industries. Though packaging optimization is preferred, reuse of pallets & containers to refrain packaging development in every cycle, offers good potential. Recycling packaging material for reuse is next best way to sustainable packaging. Design packaging that is eco-friendly, low-dense or consumes less material to minimize the impact, especially when reuse or recycling opportunity is limited. Sustainable packaging has become both, a mandate and consumer voice to all industries.
Green packaging strategies such as packaging optimization, light-weighting, selection of alternative material resources which easily biodegrade or turn into compost and promoting re-purpose will help companies to have an overall cost reduction and increased consumer preference while minimizing packaging waste, deforestation, carbon emissions, etc. Firms like Nestle, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Campbell, etc., initiated an integrated approach towards its product packaging that incorporates source reduction, re-use, recycling and energy recovery while cutting cost.
Nestlé is one among those few companies that have taken the use of biodegradable materials for packaging or material handling. For instance, it uses biodegradable trays into its packaging for Dairy Box and Black Magic chocolate assortments. The tray is made of a substance derived from Maize, designed to decompose within three months on a compost heap. Besides, producing these trays consumes around half the energy required for plastic version. The company realized packaging material cost savings worldwide up to $510 million during 1991-2006 while decreasing its environmental impact.
Starbucks, which account for large percentage of disposable packaging has recently introduced earth-friendly hot cup sleeves, ‘EarthSleeve’ to eliminate some of the packaging waste it generates. The manufacturing process adopted for this (developed an adhesive that effectively facilitates the removal of fiber) is expected to save close to 100000 trees. Raw Fibre material is reduced by 34% and post-consumer content (i.e., recycled materials) is increased by 25%. With 3 billion sleeve cups used every year for US market alone, the new packaging is expected to make a big eco-difference in the industry. Curbing the supremely wasteful practice of double-cupping and encouraging reuse of cups or own cups, the new Starbucks Earth Sleeve(TM) allows for a case cube and truckload yield improvement of 15%, reducing overall environmental impact of the transportation of the sleeves.
Sustainable packaging design seeks to reduce the overall impact on environment. A complete redesign of their Monte Carlo product line saved Campbell about 15 tons of packaging materials. Redesigning shapes and Jatz packaging at Campbell Australia, reduced paperboard by 440,000 pounds and eliminated 12,000 pallets from distribution. Globally, packaging improvement projects of Campbell eliminated more than 9.3 million pounds of packaging materials in just two years. It saved more than 4.5 million pounds of steel, plastic and paper packaging materials in 2010 alone. Environmental labeling also aid in better reuse or recycling of packaging material and managing of packaging waste as it assist consumers in identifying if the packaging can be recycled or how it should be disposed of.
The retail giant Wal-Mart expects the cut in packaging will save 667,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and estimates $3.4 billion in direct savings and roughly $11 billion in savings across the supply chain. It also introduced a system called “packaging scorecard” to rate vendors on their sustainability— based on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, product-to-package ratio, and the amount of renewable energy used throughout the manufacturing and delivery process.