Implications of Sustainable Packaging

Implications of Sustainable Packaging

By: Berlin Packaging Specialist
Date: October 28, 2019

Sustainability is a broad movement. Sustainability has caused some change in the packaging market. For example:

  • The language used to describe package – e.g., “green”, “carbon footprint”
  • The retailer dialogue and requirements – e.g., Wal-Mart’s scorecard
  • The rise of certain new tactics and materials – e.g., lightweighting, bio-resins

But, at the end of the day, sustainability is a very complex movement. There is a complex calculus that can be used to look at the packaging system – from material inputs, to material outputs, to energy & climate, to people & community. In this calculus, there are many tradeoffs any package has. It’s great that glass is made from a plentiful ingredient, but it takes tremendous energy to create glass and to transport it given its fragility and weight. Conversely, there are many more design options to lightweight packages made of plastic, but petroleum-based resins are a scarce resource and bio-based resins also have environmental impact.

So the packaging that existed in the market before “sustainability” still exists and thrives; some new words are used and some new dialogue happens. Surely some innovations have played to the green movement and some variables get different weight than they used to, but packaging is largely the same with the same underlying calculus.

So we see sustainability causing a veneer of change. The fundamentals of the packaging market are intact. It’s up to the consumer to demand (and be willing to pay for) more radical shifts than we have seen up to now. Packages like Ecologic’s eco.bottle™ show that more radical changes are possible, but this package is still a niche application.