Innovations in Plastic Packaging to be More Sustainable

packaging More than 25 million tons of plastic packaging is sold in the US every year, less than five percent gets recycled. Although plastic packaging is not always recyclable it is lightweight and thus, reduces transportation emissions when product is distributed. Changes are slowly being made in the plastics industry to help reduce waste, improve recycled content and use of materials.

 According to one article, Innovations in Plastic Packaging Help Lighten Environmental Footprint the changes will result in:“lighter packaging, less fuel to transport products, reduced use of natural resources, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and less waste.”

A company called SmartCycle processes recycled content from beverage bottles to make packaging for food, box or thermoformed applications. Through creating a use for recycled bottles, the company is able to support recycling efforts while utilizing energy-saving manufacturing process.

Of course, reducing plastic materials altogether in packaging is ideal but not necessarily feasible for some manufacturers. If plastics packaging must be used it is important to choose plastics that can easily be recycled, such as resin numbers 1, 2 and 5. Or utilize plastic packaging that uses recycled-content. And finally, consider reducing the amount of plastic content used in the packaging as the bottled water industry started to do back in 2011.

 For more information about sustainable packaging and other eco-friendly trends for your business please contact us.

 

 

Going Plastic Free

What would your life look like if you were plastic free? It is hard to imagine with all the plastic packaging and consumer goods that are in our daily lives.

Plastics are not good for us. They have filled up our landfills. The EPA estimates that over 12% of our current waste stream is made up of plastics and of that the largest category of materials is food containers and packaging. Plastics are now in our ocean  and have created their own island called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And the health studies coming out about plastics, especially those that come into contact with food or beverage, have indicated initially they might be cancer-causing according to a Scientific America article.  Although the plastics industry denies such reports it is understandable given that over 50% of industry’s revenues make up plastic packaging, according to  the report, The Future of Plastics of Packaging.

A new trend is emerging to go plastic free. Essentially that means no product or good purchases that are made from or come in plastic packaging. If it sounds like this might be difficult, it is!

Here are a few resources that provide some tips and tricks on kicking the plastic habit!

  • My Plastic Free: A blogger who is blogging about how she is going plastic free. She is in the process of publishing a book called ‘Plastic Free’.
  • How We Tried to be Plastic Free: Rodale publishing did a blog in 2011 on attempts by their staff to be plastic free. A great idea for a company try to educate staff on plastic use.
  • Life Without Plastic: A site that provides products that are all plastic free to help those who want to rid plastic from their lives.
  • Life Less Plastic: A blogger, Jeanne Haegele who has been plastic free since 2007 and has her own journey described in her blog.

Reduce Your Plastic Use and Improve your Health and the Environment

There has been a lot written about plastic lately. Not only is it harmful to the environment but overwhelming studies are finding plastic harmful to your health. Consider these facts;

  • Plastics production produces 14 percent of toxic air emissions in the U.S., and each plant emits an average of 300-500 gallons of contaminated wastewater per minute. (It’s Easy Being Green book)
  • 100 million plastic bottles dumped in US every year. Each bottle will take over 1,000 years to biodegrade.  (SIGG)
  • BPA (a plastic hardening agent prevalent in bottles, cups and lined tin cans) is so prevalent in food packaging and other consumer items that prior research has detected its presence in at least 90% of Americans. A group of 20 San Francisco residents had 66% less BPA in their urine after three days on a diet of fresh, organic and unpackaged food, scientists found. (Silent Spring Institute)
  • 500 billion plastic bags or wraps are thrown away in America each year and are created with 12 million barrels of oil. (DropthePlasticBag.org)

Find out the facts about plastic for yourself with these resources;

Plastic Disclosure is a great website that offers facts and information about the harmful effects of plastic.

GreenBiz released this article a few weeks ago about the plastic use in corporations.

New York Times released this article on the issue of plastic and waste

If you want a more lighthearted approach, view the movie Bag It, that was released early in 2011. It discusses all the issues with plastic. For a review, go to this blog entry.

Plastic Industry vs. Reuseable Bags

An interesting lawsuit has been announced between The Plastics Industry and Chico bags, a reuseable bag company based in California. In Green America’s announcement of this in Stand Up Against Big Plastic.

An interesting lawsuit has been announced between The Plastics Industry and Chico bags, a reuseable bag company based in California. According to Green America’s article Stand Up Against Big Plastic., the lawsuit is about ChicoBag’s claims that its products are superior to plastic bags with regard to environmental impact. There has been some debate around this topic of what is more environmentally friendly when you take into the account the entire lifecycle and manufacturing process of bags.

According to a academic paper on the plastic bag footprint, Plastic Grocery Bags: An Ecological Footprint, with extraction of the petroleum, the use of toxic chemicals and emissions during the manufacturing process and in particular the disposal and environmental issues around making the plastic bag adds up to some harmful impacts.

On the other side, some research has said that a cloth bag needs to be used 173 times to compare to a plastic bag environmental footprint. This is based on these reusable bags are made in China and use a higher amount of water and fertilizer in their production, along with the transportation footprint.

A report commissioned by the Environmental Agency of the UK was released in March 2011 called Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, came to the conclusion that all multi-use bags- whether plastic, cotton or paper—need to be reused multiple times to reduce the environmental footprint. They also found that the biggest environmental footprint is resource use and manufacturing over the end of life impact.

As many environmentalists note the best case scenario is always to reduce and reuse as much as possible. The less we use disposable bags and the more we reuse the bags we have the better it is for the environment.

Bag it! Movie

Recently at the Boulder Film Festival the movie, Bag It! was presented. A very entertaining, funny and delightful film about how plastic affects our life. Featuring Jeb based in Telluride, a normal guy, just trying to find out the answers about plastic and how it affects our environment, community, oceans and health. It provides excellent statistics and information about how plastic gets consumed in our daily life.  You can purchase the DVD online or go to their ‘Showings’ page to see when it will be coming to your area.

They also have a ‘Take Action’ page of specific actions you can take to eliminate plastic from your life.