Akhila is a Justmeans staff writer for CSR and ethical consumption. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she i...
Sustainable Packaging Making Headway With Big Companies
Tackling the Problem of Packaging
Some of the biggest companies have gathered to tackle the problem of packaging and how to make it more sustainable. Big names like Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Kellogg's and others have formed a trade organization to coordinate environmental efforts for the packaging industry.
Michigan-based American Institution for Packaging and the Environment (Ameripen) will "advocate on public policy relating to packaging and the environment. It will collaborate with trade associations, academic institutions, non-profits and government agencies to facilitate relevant research and data collection."
A "material-neutral" approach will be taken towards packaging. The association will also focus on education and outreach, issue management, statistics, research strategies, and communication tools in addition to sustainable packaging initiatives.
Many companies have already shown a vested interest in improving packaging. Coca-Cola with its PlantBottle made of sugarcane starch leads the way. Amazon is another company that focuses on improving its packaging efficiency. The group aims to help companies that have issues with packaging technology.
What Can Consumers Do?
Part of the problem with packaging technology is that there is no accurate measure of its carbon footprint. It is only in the recent years that retailers and companies have started taking notice of the problem that excessive packaging creates. Plastics, paper, paper board, aluminium cans - all of these accumulate to cause huge waste streams and clog landfills with material that can be reused.
There are many things that consumers can do to become more mindful about packaging. Look for products with packaging that is made from recycled sources or see if it can be recycled itself. As a rule of thumb, the higher the recycled content the lower the carbon footprint. When it comes to plastic bottles, it is near impossible to find 100% recycled content for food-grade bottles but even a bottle with 50% recycled content comes with massive eco-savings. With glass, you can find higher content of recycled material even up to 95% and glass can be recycled over and over. Many paper products also come with percentages of recycled content. Look for the label that says 'post-consumer' recycled.
In order to reduce your personal packaging footprint there are several things you can do. Look for products that use lesser packaging, buy in bulk and use refillable containers where possible. When ordering online, ask for your products to be delivered in one shipment. Carry your own thermos for your coffee or reusable bag. Think about reusing packaging instead of just recycling. Look into what the company is doing towards reducing its packaging impact. Beware of individually wrapped items.
Reducing packaging and ensuring more sustainable forms of it is not just the responsibility of companies. There is a feedback loop in play and consumers should do their part to keep it going.