Flexible packaging, can it be a net zero hero? We think so, and here’s why.
Today’s environmentally conscious market can present many challenges for brand owners, retailers, and their supply chains, especially when aligning packaging choices with net-zero strategies. Amid calls to turn off the plastic tap and reduce carbon emissions, we have seen a range of highly ambitious packaging pledges; some have succeeded, and some have fallen far from the mark. Often part of a broader net-zero strategy, sustainable packaging pledges are a path paved with good intentions to take a business’ environmental performance to the next level. So why do some pledges fly and others fall?
Put simply, the full extent of packaging functionality is often underestimated. The reality is that packaging requirements are complex, making the innovation and sourcing of functional, sustainable packaging alternatives complex, too. Therefore, the success of alternative solutions directly impacts the success of a sustainable packaging pledge. (Cue strategic sustainable packaging partner!)
Protection is King
Packaging’s fundamental purpose is to protect and preserve. It’s the big why – the reason packaging was created in the first place. However, there is no one-stop solution, and as well documented, flexible packaging has not always been designed with the environment in mind. Industry challenges include multi-material, non-recyclable laminates, food contamination, littering, and inefficient waste management infrastructures. Yet, the innovative, flexible packaging industry has evolved rapidly in recent years in response to ever-changing customer and product needs and is today delivering value-added solutions for consumer convenience, recyclability, and food waste reduction.
Food waste alone is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually. That’s one-third of all food produced for human consumption. When food waste breaks down in landfill, it produces harmful greenhouse gases. Therefore, packaging designed to extend the shelf-life of food products in-store and at home plays a vital role in the race to net zero.
Retailers set the bar.
Many retailers lead with bold packaging pledges to bolster their net-zero targets. For instance, UK retailer Iceland pledged to eliminate all plastic packaging from its own-label brands by this year (2023) and demonstrated that a trusted packaging partner is critical to its success. When Iceland collaborated with Parkside, one of the world’s first paper-recyclable packaging solutions for frozen food was developed. Meanwhile, M&S has targeted net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and promised a 30% reduction in the volume of plastic food packaging by 2027.
The flexible packaging industry is highly versatile and has innovated its way out of many challenges in the past; its response to net zero targets is no different. Parkside understands the complex world of sustainability and knows there is no silver bullet for success. Whether compostable, renewable, recyclable, recycled content, lightweight, low carbon, or packaging designed for reuse and refill, a sustainable packaging partner should be able to provide a solution quickly and effectively while maintaining a range of requirements. These include the quality and functional performance of the pack, strength, robustness, packaging speed, energy efficiency, shipping weight, and product protection. No matter how retailers and brands want to design for the environment, choosing a packaging partner who can provide a broad range of solutions is essential.