What Part Does Packaging Play in Your Sustainability Strategy?
Consumers and businesses are more invested than ever in sustainable manufacturing processes, from acquiring sustainable raw materials to green packaging to post-use effects. True sustainability encompasses much more than just making packaging recyclable or using bioplastics and other eco-friendly materials; it includes the entire product lifecycle. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) are leading the way to help businesses shift toward a start-to-finish sustainable materials management (SMM) approach.
What is SMM?
SMM is a manufacturing approach that focuses on using and reusing materials as sustainably and productively as possible throughout the entire product lifecycle. This lifecycle includes acquisition of raw materials, processing and manufacturing of the product, design and packaging, distribution and use, and end-of-life recovery or disposal. The primary goals of SMM are:
- Use materials more efficiently in order to use less.
- Reduce environmental impact and toxicity.
- Assure the availability of sufficient resources — now and in the future.
Implementing an SMM approach can significantly reduce packaging’s contribution to the municipal solid waste stream (MSW). According to the SPC, 30% of MSW (over 75 million tons per year) is discarded packaging. Clearly, incorporating an SMM approach for your packaging as part of your overall sustainability strategy can have a major impact on the environment both today and for future generations.
SMM and your packaging
A good first step to incorporating an SMM approach in your packaging strategy is to perform a life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) for your prospective or current packaging. An LCIA is an evaluation of a package’s environmental performance throughout its entire life cycle. This evaluation considers all elements of a package’s life cycle, such as raw material sourcing, production methods, transport methods, and end-of-life scenarios (recycle, reuse, or discard). An LCIA is part of the packaging evaluation services that Combined Technologies, Inc. (CTI) provides.
The LCIA provides valuable insight into packaging choices that can increase sustainability: for example, packaging materials that have a lower overall environmental impact, such as thermoformed plastic packaging and flexible packaging.
Thermoformed plastic packaging typically uses eco-friendly materials and production methods and is generally recyclable. Flexible packaging is often smaller and lighter than other packaging options and requires smaller amounts of energy and materials to produce. Flexible packaging also contributes less to MSW, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.
The LCIA can also help you identify opportunities to optimize your packaging as recommended by the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN), for greater balance between cost, ease of use, aesthetic appeal, performance, and sustainability throughout the package life cycle.
The SPC advocates that the packaging industry assume a more active role in material stewardship. Implementing an SMM approach with your packaging is an important step toward improving sustainability and using resources more efficiently. Choosing a packaging vendor like CTI, that’s committed to producing sustainable packaging, can help you ensure your packaging supports your sustainability strategy.
[cta]It’s painless: Our package analysis is no-cost, no-obligation. Get the information and options you need to make a positive change for your product. Contact the experts at CTI online, by email, or by phone at 847-968-4855.[/cta]