While it might feel that the fight against plastic pollution has been waged for a long time, it is, to all intents and purposes, a relatively new concept. International lobbying group Greenpeace didn’t have a dedicated plastics pollution team until 2015, and Friends of the Earth only started its plastic programme in 2016.
One of the main reasons for starting the campaign against plastic packaging pollution was the highly regarded 2017 Blue Planet II documentary series. The series focused on the relationship between humans and marine life and was produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. In this series, the final episode had a six-minute segment which was dedicated to the disastrous impact that plastics are having on marine life today. The footage resonated with viewers and led to a mind-shift on what could be done to manage and mitigate the situation.
As a result, people started referring to the ‘Blue Planet II Effect’ explaining why public opinion had shifted against plastic packaging. This opened opportunities for flexible and rigid packaging manufacturers to inform the public that while plastic today can be a polluter due to human mismanagement, it can also deliver significant sustainability benefits.
Aside from protecting and preserving goods protecting the carbon already used in the production of products, flexible packaging requires significantly fewer resources and less energy to manufacture than other popular ‘sustainable’ substrates.
Flexible plastic packaging also enables food products to travel further distances due to its robust and durable nature and significantly extends shelf life of packed goods, limiting waste both in transit and in the home. It achieves this due to the incorporation of barrier functionality in the material substrates. Plastics with high barrier performance protect food and sensitive items from environmental elements such as sunlight and moisture, as well as the ingress and egress of gases, thereby increasing the shelf life of perishable products. By including spouts, zip locks, and resealable closures, flexible packaging also becomes a convenient commodity for busy consumers seeking ease of dispensing, cooking and use.
The plastics and packaging sectors are aware of the importance of protecting the environment. However, the plastic packaging ‘problem’ is about much more than simply taking it off the supermarket shelves. The debate encompasses human behaviour, government policy on recycling and infrastructure, and it means carefully weighing up the pros and cons of one substrate over another – depending on the product application requirements.
Recycling and sustainability remain at the top of many brands’ and retailers’ agendas, as they continue to seek to give their customers the packaging experience they desire.
At the same time, there must be a push from the industry to educate consumers on recycling best practice to improve the quality and quantity of waste suitable for recycling. Education is a key factor in ensuring that everyone within the supply chain and society at large is on the same recycling journey.
The packaging industry is continually developing new solutions utilising sustainable materials and technologies that change the game in driving the six Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, rethink and repair; approaches that need to be taken into consideration by the entire supply chain from designer, manufacturer and retailer when selecting packaging designs.
As an alternative end of life route for flexible packaging designs that are unsuitable for today’s recycling infrastructure, Parkside has created, with full accreditation, the Park2Nature™ range. Packs are suitable for home and industrial composting and comprise innovative multilayer laminates manufactured from sustainable materials. All designs feature excellent oxygen, aroma, and moisture barriers, that extend the shelf life of products.
In addition, packs that are fully home compostable are designed to break down entirely within 26 weeks, gaining accreditation from TUV (formerly Vincotte) and are rigorously tested for eco-toxicity and a host of other criteria against EN 13432. Notably, they have also been tested and proven to break down fully in seawater should the worst happen, and the materials find their way into waterways.
Parkside is steering its business to support the development of the circular economy in packaging, but both the public and private sectors must also support this transition.
Whether you’re looking for compostable or recyclable, plastic or paper-based, innovative, flexible packaging to meet your consumer needs, the Parkside team can assist you from concept to completion.
For more information or any further questions, please feel free to contact our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1924 898074.