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 The Packaging Economy Just Waiting to be Created

EuroPack Summit 2017
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux, Switzerland - 18 - 19 September 2017

"The Zero Waste lifestyle has created different opportunities for businesses. There is growing interest in minimalism and simple living, and manufacturers cannot afford to keep their eyes closed. I would encourage packaging companies to think of ways to minimise their products and introduce reusable packaging," says Bea Johnson, Author, Zero Waste Home.

Tell me about your Zero Waste methodology of 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.

The Zero Waste lifestyle aims to eliminate or drastically reduce trash from one's household, but it actually translates into a life rich in experiences instead of material things. Refuse is about refusing what we do not need. In this consumerist society, we are the target of many promotional goods. Every time we accept one, we create the demand for more. Once we bring them home, they become a waste problem. We say No on the spot. Reduce is about letting go of what we do not need, so that these valuable resources can go back into the market. The second hand market is extremely important for the future of waste. Reuse is about buying second hand and swapping disposable items for reusable alternatives. You can use handkerchiefs instead of tissues, adopt rags instead of paper towels, and go grocery shopping with jars and cloth bags. The fourth rule is Recycle only what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, so only very few recyclables remain. The last one is Rot, composting fruit and vegetable scraps, floor sweepings, hair, etc. With this methodology, my family produces just one jar of trash every year. 

What are the misconceptions associated with this lifestyle?

People think that to live this way you have to be a hippy or live in the woods. They think I am a stay-at-home mum with too much time on my hands, but that is not the case. I am a full-time professional. People also think it costs more, but it is the complete opposite. We save 40 percent because we buy only what needs to be replaced, we buy second hand and we buy in bulk. When you buy a packaged item, 15 percent of the cost is the packaging. Buying food with reusable containers means we no longer throw our money away. Some people think it takes more time to live this way, but it actually simplifies your life tremendously.

What role can packaging executives play? What business opportunities could you point them to?

There is a big market for reusable, returnable and refillable products. There is an entire economy about to explode and it is already emerging. My book has inspired countless unpackaged stores worldwide, lines of reusable and refillable products, plastic-free silos, refilling machines, etc. Large manufacturers are taking note too. For example, I was contacted on behalf of a bottled water manufacturer, I suggested selling the product in branded street fountains and returnables.

Packaging companies interested in introducing reusable products have much to gain from this movement. Plastic is associated with many health concerns, so I would encourage them to consider metal or glass instead. Women aged 25 - 34 are most interested in this lifestyle. That is when they get pregnant and become more careful about what goes in their body. They also look to simplify chores as they juggle work, kids and a household. I wanted a better future for my children. That is why I started. Packaging executives should look at this market carefully. Zero Waste is not an utopia or a fad, it is a reality and a necessity.

And finally, what does your yearly jar of waste contain?

The last jar contains foam from a cycling helmet, a hairnet from volunteer work, stickers from vegetables, the backing of stickers, and the broken antenna of our solar converter. It also contains a balloon that landed on our land.

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans

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