As Anthony Ryanof affirms, Professor of Physical Chemistry of The University of Sheffield, getting rid of plastics entirely is highly unlikely, but also unnecessary. What we need to do is learn to stop using bad plastics and start using good plastics instead. It was not plastic that was the problem, but how people chose to deal with plastic.
It is known that most of the flexible packaging is comprised of multiple layers, so it is not always easy to recycle. Some layers within the package may be recyclable, but it is difficult and sometimes impossible to separate the layers for recycling. However, companies are looking at adding post-consumer recycled plastics to the creation of the package. This all adds to the overall sustainability of the package as post-consumer recycled plastics help reduce greenhouse gases.
A good way to quantify the environmental impact of any product or service is using the Carbon Footprint term. This is the quantification of the amount of CO2e (equivalent carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere throughout the chain and production and during the covers of the use and disposal of a given product, in this case, a package. According to Luis Carlos Gomez, member of the Board of Directors of Asiplastic El Salvador, if we compared with other materials, flexible packaging uses much less material in general. Specifically, several reports prove that at least 3.6 more ‘mass’ of materials would be used if all the plastic that is theoretically possible to replace were replaced. That would cause major problems in the production and supply chains.
Besides, according to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), the life cycle attributes of flexible packaging demonstrate many more sustainable advantages. Flexible packaging requires less energy to be produced. It is estimated that 2.2 times more energy would be needed to produce substitute packages with other materials. This implies that the energy park of the countries would grow in this factor, with all the economic and environmental complications that this entails.
Nowadays, in what flexible packaging concerns, plastics generate a positive carbon balance. If they were switched for another alternative materials, the greenhouse gas impact to produce such substitute materials would grow by a factor of 2.7 times more CO2e than at present.
Across many industrial fields, as Smithers Pira says, sustainability is an increasing priority. This is especially true in packaging, because consumes high volumes of plastic. Moreover, companies and brand owners are increasingly see packaging as an easy target to cut their carbon footprint.
Innovation in plastic packaging has helped us to do more in our daily lives, with less impact on the environment. Plastic is an environmentally friendly material par excellence! It requires each actor to account for the plastics they use and how.