There’s no doubt that packaging, especially plastic packaging, has been under the microscope in recent years, with the media shining a light on its effects on the environment. However, as a manufacturer of flexible packaging for over 40 years, Parkside views the argument through an experienced and discerning lens.
At Parkside, we recognise that when plastic is misused or mismanaged, it has the potential to devastate our environment, an environment that we care deeply about. We also appreciate that plastics are unique, innovative, and versatile materials that can contribute to protecting the environment when used responsibly. The key is to recognise that there is no silver bullet to sustainability, only a combination of well-designed strategies striving for a more sustainable future.
Responsible resourcing, best-fit applications, and effective waste management are just a handful of elements that contribute to a successful sustainable packaging strategy. However, at Parkside, we have noticed seven fundamental packaging sins that frequently hinder the sustainability of a packaging model. As innovators in sustainable, flexible packaging, we’re here to help. We have devised our Seven Pillars of Sustainable Packaging to enable brand owners to turn these sins into packaging wins!
A clear view of the seven packaging sins…and how to convert them to wins!
1) The Sin of Over Packaging
One of the first steps to sourcing the best fit packaging for your product is to consider its purpose. What functionality does it provide? How often have frustrated consumers grumbled that over-packaged products are hard to open, gimmicky, or unnecessary? We know that sometimes the seemingly over-packaged is created for a reason. However, whether the primary function of your packaging is to enhance shelf-life, improve consumer convenience, or get your product safely from A to B, it is vital to consider the best-fit material solution for your needs. Our Seven Pillar strategy supports customers to reduce the amount of packaging they consume while maintaining optimal functionality and resource efficiency. Our lightweight solutions are designed to reduce the overall thickness and weight of packs, like lidding film or laminates, without compromising on performance. Paired with the option to add PCR (post-consumer recycled) content into one or more layers of a pack, the overall amount of virgin plastic used in production can be further reduced.
Similarly, our ISCC Accredited laminates for applications, from pouches to flow wraps, contain biosourced renewable or recycled content, which can also reduce the amount of fossil fuels used in production, contributing to a lower carbon footprint. Not only are these options viable and functional solutions for pack performance, but they are also aligned with legislation such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the UK Plastic Tax that drive brands and manufacturers towards using more recycled content in their packaging.
2) Single-Use Plastics
This will not be the first time single-use plastics have featured on a sin list! So, why are they considered so sinful? Put simply; they are designed with single-use in mind, ultimately intended for the bin, without circularity. Organisations such as OPRL and WRAP encourage manufacturers to reduce, remove, reuse and recycle as much plastic packaging as possible. Suppose brand owners choose to remove plastic from their range. In that case, they need look no further than Parkside’s innovative Recoflex™ paper recyclable solutions, produced from renewable resources and designed to be recycled through kerbside paper collections. This versatile solution is suitable for single-ply or laminate pouches, flow wraps, bags and tray lidding.The paper recyclable range is heat sealable and perfect for a broad range of products, including freezer applications.
3) Using complex, non-recyclable materials
This sin is the root of many flexible packaging bad news stories. Flexible plastic packaging is notoriously challenging to recycle due to complex layers of plastics that cannot be separated, which renders them incompatible with recycling, despite serving an essential function of product protection. According to WRAP, “We throw away around 290,000 tonnes of plastic bags and wrapping every year in the UK [alone]. This material makes up nearly a quarter of consumer packaging, yet only 6% is recycled”. This means that, once again, a beautifully printed, high-performance, high-barrier pack is destined for the landfill or, worse, leaked into the environment. What’s the solution? Parkside’s Recoflex™ mono-polymer laminates are designed with product protection and recyclability in mind. Our mono-polymers perform, from lidding film to pouches and flat-bottomed bags, whether single-ply, PET, PP, PE or PE laminate; our innovative solutions are fully recyclable and are a significant win for one of the toughest challenges in flexible packaging waste management.
4) Draining finite fossil fuels
Parkside has, for some time, advocated renewable resources to provide a viable alternative to finite fossil-fuel-based plastics, where appropriate and practicable. Our established Park2Nature™ range of renewable and certified home and industrial compostable solutions is a favourite for environmentally conscious brand owners looking to reduce fossil fuel consumption and provide their consumers with a natural end-of-life option. As previously mentioned, there is no silver bullet in sustainability. No one-pack-fits-all-solution, and as such, compostable packaging is not always suited to all applications. However, it is perfect for those applications that are impossible to recycle, like small-format wrappers or packs contaminated by food. In addition, our ISCC-accredited packs are an ideal option to introduce biobased and renewal content to lower the overall carbon footprint of your packaging. Renewable and compostable solutions are an excellent pairing for any sustainable packaging strategy.
5) High food spoilage rates
Food waste is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Put into perspective, if food waste were a country, it would have the third largest carbon footprint after the United States and China. Furthermore, a recent DEFRA report states, “the UK currently produces 9.5 million tonnes of food waste every year post-farmgate, 70% of which could have been eaten. This annual waste has an approximate cost of £19 billion and has associated emissions of 36 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Businesses produce over 2.9 million tonnes of this waste.” For this sin, using Parkscribe™, our market leading laser scoring technology, Parkside offers a range of solutions to reduce food wastage of post-farmgate products. Recloseable lidding films and wrappers allow consumers to reclose a pack to stay fresher for longer. Furthermore, Parkside’s range of high-barrier solutions offers tailored gas and moisture barriers to enhance shelf life, which can further reduce food waste.
6) Failing to consider reuse or refill options
As with sin number 2 (single-use plastics), designing a product for single-use is not the most efficient use of materials. The linear take-make-waste model that we as a modern world have become used to means we have neglected the simplicity of reuse. Parkside’s state-of-the-art technology and extensive industry knowledge enables us to work closely with our customers to maximise the sustainability of their reusable offerings, which are made for durability and, therefore, heavy by nature. By incorporating lightweight, flexible pack designs for their refill solutions, manufacturers have a lighter, more carbon-friendly pack for transit. Pair this with our recyclable or compostable solutions, and manufacturers can further improve their sustainable offerings. Upstream innovation is key to this win!
7) Last but not least, not considering the overall Carbon Footprint
Carbon emissions are produced every time new plastics are manufactured. This contributes to the overall carbon footprint of a packaged product. There is a direct correlation between a pack’s weight and its carbon footprint. Parkside supports its customers in navigating the carbon footprint challenge by offering bespoke lightweight solutions, so the minimum amount of plastic is consumed in its manufacture. In addition, to light-weighting, the carbon footprint can be further reduced using recycled content (PCR) or renewable resources. In fact, by considering any of the Seven Pillars of Sustainable Packaging Design, our customers can create a pack that is the perfect fit for their product, with the minimum carbon footprint that functionality will allow. That is why our unique promise is: No matter how you want to design for the environment, Parkside has the broadest range of sustainable, flexible packaging solutions on the market today. Visit our website today at parksideflex.com.