The image of packaging in general is not the most positive one – to say it friendly. Many people and also some media put their finger in the wound and rate packaging as an evil that should be avoided. But why?
Look at the role, packaging should fulfill:
- Guarantee the protection of a product
- Act as a transportation means
- Be source of information
- Function as a quality safe
- Be marketing object
- Become the face of a brand
And when we are honest: That is what packaging does. So why is packaging evil?
Most of the people (and media) simply see the equation: Packaging is waste after use – waste is harming the environment – we have to protect the environment – that is why we should avoid packaging. Biggest problem? The conclusion of this equation is not correct.
Packaging is a must
The problem the packaging industry simply is facing: Not the packaging – paper, plastic, glass or metal, rigid or flexible – as such is the problem. It is the non-responsible use of packaging material; some products are over-packed; for some categories of packaging there could be a higher rate of recycling; and most importantly: packaging is not responsibly disposed. The role of packaging as such could be more positive if people would not only see the negative pictures of littered landscape and oceans. It is the missing link between use of packaging and its disposal.
To influence and correct resp. change this, education is vital: The change to a more responsible thinking about our environment. Economy should/could implement routines and schemes for the collection and recycling – yes, we have this in many countries/regions, but not everywhere around the globe. And the packaging industry has to continue their efforts in developing materials that are easier to recycle and to reuse. Materials that save the resources (e.g. oil), materials made of renewable sources, materials that bio-degrade, materials that save the environment.
Now what do you expect from the packaging industry in general, from the package printing and converting industries and the flexible packaging industry in particular? Basically: Many things are in place and existing already. Companies are reducing waste – resources, energy, carbon footprints etc, companies are actively looking at alternative packaging materials, at thinner and lighter materials that at the same time offer advanced performance, companies are developing new production routines, processes, materials by further developing the components used and the combination of such »ingredients« and offer optimized packaging shapes and structures.
And what do you expect from politics? Stop and reduce excessive bureaucracy. Allow the creative thinking of developers for new kinds of packaging. Allow the industry to incinerate their packaging waste for energy production – when and where appropriate and meaningful.
And what do you expect from the media? Stop condemning packaging as an evil. Packaging in many segments and areas around the globe has been progress – look at the harvests that are spoiled because of the lack of appropriate transportation and packaging, look at the safety for both the product and the consumer packaging is generating, look at the manifold changes packaging has seen over the years and provides in terms of information and security.
As cannot avoid packaging, so make the best of it! Reduce the amount of packaging. Take your bags and baskets to the market, but accept packaging where meaningful and appropriate. Many people make their living with producing packaging, but at the same time too many people around the globe depend on the packaging that protects their food, prolongs the lifecycle of their food and enables farmers and the industry to transport their food to their living spots. Show responsibility!
Packaging cannot be eliminated. But when used and disposed responsibly packaging fulfills many roles that are beneficial for both: mankind and environment.
By Wolfgang Klos-Geiger
Publisher of LabelPack – PackLabel, www.labelpack.de, and founder of many renowned specialist magazines for the package and label printing and converting industries
Photograph by Fotolia. Paola Canti