Companies ignoring market shift to sustainable packaging will be left behind

A shift in attitude away from the rampant “throw-away culture” of modern living is being led by the drive for sustainable packaging.

Design for sustainability will help to reduce resource consumption and minimise environmental impacts associated with packaged goods, says Dr Karli Verghese of the Sustainable Packaging Alliance (SPA). Dr Verghese is a speak at the marcus evans InnoPak 2010: New Era of Packaging in Melbourne this month.

“Increasingly packaging is being designed for recovery, which means that ‘mass disposal’ is no longer occurring in most developed countries. In Australia the recycling rates increased from 39 per cent in 2003 to 57 per cent in 2009, so we’re making significant progress. The increasing use of biodegradable materials will help to divert more packaging from landfill through composting facilities or alternative waste facilities,” according to Dr Verghese.

The prevalent “throw-away culture” is starting to change, she believes. “Disposal in landfill is no longer regarded as the preferred waste management option for packaging. We are running out of cost effective landfill space near urban centres, and new or expanded landfills are opposed by local communities. Companies in the packaging supply chain accept that they need to take action to reduce waste, and are working to increase recovery through the Australian Packaging Covenant. Market surveys also show that most consumers are concerned about the waste generated by packaging. However, while most of us carefully sort packaging at home to recycle as much as we can, there needs to be more focus on buying ‘sustainable’ or ‘recyclable’ packaging at the supermarket.”

The perception that going green increases a manufacturer’s cost, that will inevitably be passed on to the consumer is not necessarily the case, says Dr Verghese.

“We now have many documented case studies that show how companies have saved money by introducing more sustainable packaging, for example by lightweighting to use less material or by redesigning packaging to improve transport efficiency.  In most cases environmental improvement and business efficiency go hand in hand. 

“The benefits are not limited to cost savings. Some companies focus on sustainable packaging because it improves their reputation, or because it helps them to differentiate their products in the market place.  Companies that ignore the market shift to more sustainable packaging will be left behind,” she warns.

The marcus evans InnoPak 2010: New Era of Packaging will take place in Melbourne, 16-17 September, 2010