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Is recycling stifling packaging innovation?

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Is recycling stifling packaging innovation?

Packaging manufacturers face a balancing act of creating innovative products that also meet the needs of environmentally sensitive consumers.

Packaging is the first thing that consumers see, and it can heavily influence their buying decisions. However, environmental sustainability and business don’t always go hand in hand, especially when it comes to product packaging design.

At the recent Verona Fresh! Seminar, Director of Innovation at LINPAC, Alan Davey, explained how LINPAC is addressing these issues.

Alan stated: Packaging is arguably a green technologyas it extends the shelf life of food products and addresses portion control – therefore reducing food waste – whilst allowing consumers to visibly see the contents, amongst other credentials.”

But can we and should we do more to aid recycling?

The Government has set strict recycling targets for the UK – to recycle 42% of all used packaging by 2017.  LINPAC and other businesses which make or use packaging has to ensure that a proportion of the packaging it places on the market is recovered and recycled.

In 2012 45% of authorities in major European countries offered mixed plastics kerbside collection– but could more councils do more to help increase recycling rates?

Recycling is fundamentally a good thing – but it is not the only carbon mitigation strategy.  Some 19% of packaging waste today is now incinerated for energy – electricity and fuel. Plastics have a high calorific value, close to oil in many cases and are a great source of energy to power our towns and cities – could we be doing more of this?

As an industry, where do we go now? Consumer education? Real industry recognition of Carbon Footprint Strategies? Focus on minimising up front resource usage and recognise the fitness for purpose of certain packaging types that are currently negatively viewed because they cannot be recycled? Could multiple end-of-life scenario options for packs be positively viewed?

Is recycling stifling packaging innovation?

Alan Davey, someone who has worked in both the recycling industry and the packaging industry, claims this more balanced approach is needed.

But you have to remember packaging has a job to do; protecting goods throughout the supply chain, offering portion control, minimising food waste and increasing shelf life – all alongside creating a strong shelf presence to drive sales for the retailer.

Most importantly packaging manufacturers need to think green - and design packaging to optimise their use of materials and energy and consider packaging in the context of the supply chain whilst addressing consumers' needs.

It’s a tough balancing act – but one that’s currently being addressed by LINPAC.

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