At LINPAC we understand that packaging contains, protects, preserves, promotes, informs – and reduces costs
Food and other goods have to be protected and contained on their journey from farm or factory via warehouses and shops until they arrive at consumers’ homes.
Roughly 10 million tonnes of packaging are used each year, of which 4.7 million tonnes is the sales packaging that protects the 100 billion items bought each year by UK households alone.
In addition to containing and protecting goods, packaging has to perform a wide range of other roles including carrying an increasing amount of information, much of which is required by law; being easy to open and re-close; tamper-evident and child resistant and dispensing products.
An unwrapped cucumber loses moisture and becomes dull and unsaleable within three days. Just 1.5 grams of wrapping keeps it fresh for 14 days. Selling grapes in trays or bags has reduced in-store waste of grapes by 20%. In-store wastage of new potatoes reduced from 3% when sold loose to less than 1% after specially designed bags were introduced.
Even fruit and vegetables that are sold “loose” need packaging to get from the farm to the shop and a bag of some sort to get them home.
Without packaging consumers could not live the way they do today. Worldwide, more people now live in urban than rural environments. Food and other goods are therefore made at some distance from where they are consumed – packaging is needed to ensure they survive the journey from production to consumption.
Without packaging no liquids, gels or powders would be available; fruit and vegetables would not be available out of season; consumers would have to grow their own food or shop daily for it.
Without packaging the environmental damage from broken goods and spoiled food would be enormous. Food waste has at least ten times the environmental impact of packaging waste and that’s before taking account of the impact of methane from decayed food.
Meanwhile, of the total energy used in the food chain, 50% is used in food production, 10% on transport to the shops and retailing, 10% to make the packaging and the remaining 30% is used by shoppers to drive to the shops and store and cook food.
But there are challenges ahead for the packaging industry and for consumers. Companies like LINPAC Packaging must increase efforts to design product and packaging solutions that minimise the use of materials, energy and water and minimise the environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle.
We need to provide food and other goods in a wide range of portion sizes to suit the needs of different lifestyles and preferences. We also must ensure that we:
Design all packaging to be resource-efficient.
Design for recycling if an infrastructure is in place to collect, sort and clean the packaging in a way that will yield a net gain in resources.
Provide clear, reliable information to consumers and other stakeholders
Continue to work together with local authorities and compliance schemes to fund increased availability of collection facilities.
INCPEN - The Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment
RECOUP - Recycling of Used Plastics Ltd
WRAP - Waste & Resources Action Programme
EuPC - European Plastics Converters