Sensible packaging solutions which are environmentally friendly The packaging, which surrounds almost every consumer product, is in the hands of the consumer fleetingly. But, in the moments before you discard it, take a moment to think about the journey it took to create, make and apply that packaging ... and how you will dispose of it. This is the second of a three part series in Auckland Today, where we open up the packaging industry to reveal its complexities, fascinating dynamics and cutting edge technology. Join us as we reveal the life cycle of packaging, the unsung hero of the consumer age. There is no denying that packaged goods make a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy, but it is essential to our environment that the wrap around our increasingly incessant demand for ‘stuff’ is resource efficient. Sensible packaging solutions are vital to ensure the quality, health and safety of goods, to delay spoilage of perishables, and to brand and market products effectively. Of course, the product inside the packaging is of prime importance to the purchaser, how it looks, how it functions, and how it protects the goods leads the charge, but increasingly, the consumer is interested in how that packaging was produced. And, if you are not one of those consumers - you should be. Earth’s resources are limited and with about 12 per cent of landfill made up of packaging, and significant resources being consumed in the manufacture of the packaging, the industry is a substantial player in a more sustainable supply chain. Creative, yet environmentally friendly packaging design, is entirely possible, and if producers get clever with how the packaging is made and put together, this can go a long way in delivering consumer expectations around the environment, believes the Packaging Council of New Zealand’s (PAC.NZ) executive director, Sharon Humphreys. “Packaging should be designed to minimise the use of materials and other resources without compromising product quality, safety and economic viability,” she says. “One of the biggest impacts around packaging lies in production. In recent times, the upgrades, improvements and the integration of sophisticated technology and processes into manufacturing plants has had some of the most positive impacts on resource efficiency.” The challenge is the fine line drawn between under-packaging which can result in damaged goods, or in the case of food, spoiled produce and the over-abundance of packaging materials...think Christmas and the battle to release, seemingly over engineered packaging used to house toys! Not a job for the faint hearted. But, to bring about production efficiency, it’s essential every part of the manufacturing and packaging chain is precisely designed. “What on the face of it is over engineering is in fact a complex matrix of cleverly designed individual elements which enable high-speed, sophisticated, efficient production lines- saving on resources, both environmental and economical.” The strategy and preparation that goes into the humble package, is a strategic exercise in planning, research, science, technology, testing and expertise. There is a multitude of decisions to be made every step of the way. This is where the Packaging Council comes into its own. It has developed a comprehensive Code of Practice, which covers all considerations required of the industry - from design through to end of life options.
Who is the Packaging Council? • It’s an organisation representing the interests of industry in public policy and debate on packaging issues, including reducing the environmental impact of packaging through cost effective solutions and product stewardship • It represents the whole packaging supply chain, including raw material suppliers, packaging manufacturers, brand owners, retailers and recycling operators • The Council represents more than 80 percent of the packaging manufacturing industry and 75 percent of New Zealand’s top 100 food and grocery brands • Packaging Council members represent approximately NZ$20 billion within the New Zealand economy.
The council’s code of practice, a comprehensive and highly useful tool for the industry, uses four key principles to evaluate when considering packaging: • packaging functionality
• resource efficiency
• low impact materials
• end-of-life options.
Integral to the Code are the performance indicators, which are included throughout the key principles sections. These can provide guidance to aid companies establish appropriate metrics to measure and monitor efficiency aspects of their business. For businesses with no relevant internal measurement systems these indicators could provide a useful starting point, or for businesses who already have reporting systems in place these could help identify further metrics. Including indicators which are linked to globally recognised reporting frameworks, enables New Zealand businesses to measure the efficiency of their packaging transparently and comparably with other businesses across the globe, essential for exporters who face increasing scrutiny of their internal environmental practices.
Resource efficency PAC.NZ has identified five areas where consideration needs to be made when looking at resource efficient packaging for a product. 1. New product development Sharon says packaging which is not essential to the distribution, sale, storage, use or safety of the product should be avoided. “It’s at the time of design where the greatest impact can be achieved in creating a resource efficient package.” The balance between optimal and practical design is a tightrope for those creating or improving packaging, as every part of the supply chain has an influence on how that packaging will perform. It’s important that the reduction or elimination of one packaging component does not require the additional use of another material that will compromise the overall benefit. Considerations include the total cost of the packaging, the weight, product to packaging weight ratio, material used, storage and handling conditions, reuse or recycling options of the materials used and the code of practice in the packaging’s production. 2. Existing packaging review Using all the consideration of a new product development, the council encourages people to see if it’s possible to down gauge material to something more lightweight and/or optimise the package design to reduce materials. “Consulting with suppliers and customers could lead to ways to minimise packaging and ensure recovery/recycling is easily achieved.”
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