LCA key to cutting packaging

26th June 2012


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  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Food and drink ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Life Cycle Analysis

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IEMA

Retailers, manufacturers and producers are increasingly working together to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging as a part of wider efficiency efforts, according to PwC

In an update of its 2010 research examining the private sector’s approach to reducing packaging, the business services firm concludes that companies are rejecting the concept of ‘sustainable packaging’ and instead taking a more collaborative approach to improving a product’s environmental performance throughout its life cycle.

Increasing concerns over resource security and the need to reduce costs during tough economic times have seen firms invest more heavily in sustainability, according to the report, with manufacturers reducing the amount of raw materials used and focusing on improving the efficiency of production, distribution and disposal processes.

“The consensus around what represents sustainable packaging has developed significantly in the past few years,” confirmed Peter White, from P&G, one of the seven organisations that contributed to the research.

“The debates about lightweighting, recycled content or recyclability as the ultimate measures of how sustainable a package is have been replaced by a more holistic debate around the product, the package and their use from inception to postconsumer use.”
According to the report, greater collaboration across the supply chain has been enabled by the publication of the global protocol on packaging sustainability by the Global Consumer Goods Forum, which has provided a “common language” to assess the sustainability of packaging.

In addition, environmental reporting and life-cycle analysis (LCA) allows organisations to track one product and its packaging throughout its life. This enables all organisations involved to identify areas the where the most significant impacts occur and work together to tackle those.

“The packaging industry, retailers and suppliers are putting aside their traditional views of commercial sensitivities and the ‘silo’ approach to sustainability,” concludes the report. “In its place is a willingness to develop an overall solution to sustainability that covers the entire life cycle.”

PwC’s global sustainability leader, Malcolm Preston, said: “We need to stop using the phrase sustainable packaging. The industry is working towards efficient products, efficient packaging, efficient transport and efficient end-of-life solutions.”
Jane Bickerstaffe, chief executive of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, called on policymakers to take their lead from the private sector.

“The industry is streets ahead of the government in the work it is doing but politicians are only interested in packaging once its life cycle has ended,” she said. “Government needs to understand it isn’t all about recycling. Packaging only makes up around 5% of landfill waste and 2% of greenhouse-gas emissions.”

The report also reveals that manufacturers are increasingly dedicating more resources to communicating to the public about how packaging is used, and how they can play an important part in reducing its environmental impacts at the end of its life through recycling or reuse.

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