Scientific research predicts that in 2050 there will be more plastics-based waste materials than fish in the oceans. All these plastic materials come from packaging materials. The future of packaging extremely determines the general environmental condition of the planet earth. New and technological advancements are being devised every day to combat the prediction as every individual, starting from big to small companies, governments, and consumers across the globe becomes more cautious about the effects of plastic packaging (Boz, Korhonen, & Koelsch Sand, 2020). For several decades plastics have been the only alternative for packaging bought goods and packaging products across the globe. Scientific warnings have been ignored until the effects of excessive plastic manufacturing started revealing its danger on the planet due to excess pollution both inland and water bodies. New measures are now being taken to reduce the mass production of plastic-based packaging materials and emulate eco-friendly packaging methods by using more biodegradable materials globally. The campaign for more eco-friendly packaging systems significantly influences the future of packaging as governments, scientists and environmentalists seek to stop pollution hence embarking on more sustainable packaging methods.
Earth is the only planet that is so far discovered to provide elements that sustain life. That is water, oxygen, and green vegetation. All forms of life in the ecosystem are supported by earth alone. That makes it home to not only human beings but a vast pool of intriguing plant and animal species which happen to depend on the natural environmental resources availed by the planet earth. Unfortunately, since the industrial revolution, human activities have continued posing a threat to the environment. Plastics are among the most devastating source of non-biodegradable waste materials that mainly results from packaging (Boz, Korhonen, & Koelsch Sand, 2020). Supermarkets and big shops use plastics bags for packaging bought products for their customers. Manufacturing and processing companies also depend on plastic-based containers to package their products such as cooking oil, beverages, snacks, and home supplies. The magnitude of plastics being used every day raises the alarm as the manufacturing of plastics continues to scale new heights every day. Studies show that about 359.0 million metric tons of plastic were produced in the year 2018. According to IEA (International Energy Agency), if plastics production is not regulated, there will be an increase in plastic production in the coming twenty years to reach 540.0 million metric tons by 2041. With such alarming predictions, the future of packaging is expected to shift drastically from plastics to biodegradable materials to retain the natural environment.
Biodegradable-based packaging materials are the future of sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging encompasses the development and utilization of packaging methods that result in enhanced sustainability (de Koeijer, Gerhard, & ten Klooster, 2019). That means that more eco-friendly packaging methods have to be put in place to reduce negative environmental impact. Increasing the utilization of LCI (Life Cycle Inventory) is another method that will help reduce the number of wastes currently experienced in most parts of the world. New ideas and innovations are being devised to cater to the increasing demand for packaging materials as new businesses emerge daily (García-Arca, González-Portela, & Prado-Prado, 2014). Ranging from takeaways, first food companies are also huge users of packaging materials in terms of food and takeaway beverages. Over the past few years, it is evident that almost everybody, including governments, consumers, and companies, has started emulating an eco-friendlier way of packaging products (Boz, Korhonen, & Koelsch Sand, 2020). Food restaurants are increasingly doing away with plastic containers. Plastics have been found to contain harmful effects when used with hot foodstuffs. Therefore, consumers are becoming more aware of the health issues related to plastics. Plastics contain caseinogen, which is among the main causes of cancer after prolonged use of hot foodstuffs in plastic-based packaging.
More biodegradable materials such as paperboard boxes, craft papers, cornstarch, bubble wrap packaging, compostable bowls, and PET Plastic are now being preferred by most first food restaurants and take way vendors globally. Customers are also more attracted to organizations that emulate eco-friendly practices, making it necessary for all organizations to adapt to more eco-friendly packaging to retain their market presence, value, and integrity. Processing companies are not left behind too. They are adapting to new sustainable packaging methods for long-lasting food products and beverages such as juice and UHT milk placed on shelves for storage and sale. A good example of this is the “Just Water” company by Jaden Smith, where he innovated sustainable packaging to reduce the number of plastic bottles used to store water for sale and later disposed of. Plastic water bottles are estimated to take 100 decades each to decompose.
Moreover, when decomposing, plastic bottles and waste leak hazardous chemicals into the environment and underground water sources. The use of carton boxes for packaging is proved to be more sustainable as carton boxes can easily be recycled and also biodegradable (de Koeijer, Gerhard, & ten Klooster, 2019). Additionally, glass and metal-based containers are now being used for storing food and long-life beverages as they are easily reusable and recycled. Globalization has also increased the transit of goods and a range of products across the globe. To ensure that there are improved methods of shipping, corrugated cardboard packaging is being championed as it is regarded as environmentally friendly. The packaging method encourages recycling, utilizes biodegradable materials, and provides exceptional transit performance hence efficient for business as well. These approaches give insight into the path sustainable packaging is taking for a better and safer packaging future.
Packaging has a critical role in modern society. Three universal measures have helped develop more sustainable packaging methods (de Koeijer, Gerhard, & ten Klooster, 2019). That is the reduction of plastic packaging, reuse of packaging materials, and recycling. Reusing plastics and returnable plastic use for packaging is also justifiable. The burn of plastic bags is among the most notable approaches of government, organizational, and international institutions to combat the impact of plastic on the environment.
Nonetheless, it will take some reasonable time to replace all forms of plastic packaging methods completely. Reusing is a strategic approach to reducing the production of plastics, hence a sustainable measure (de Koeijer, Gerhard, & ten Klooster, 2019). Biodegradable plastics and bio-based plastics are among the recent innovations to progressively replace plastic packaging. Businesses are the most affected parties as they depend on adequate packaging methods to sell their products. Consumers, on the other hand, are willing to promote sustainable packaging. The world is seen to be more aware now than ever of the impending danger of pollution.
Even though switching to new and environment-friendly packaging methods might seem difficult and a long-term process, there are numerous benefits that come with it, especially to businesses (García-Arca, González-Portela, & Prado-Prado, 2014). By using more eco-friendly packaging methods, organizations promote their brand and enhance customer perception of the organization. As a result, there is a potential increase in sales. Sustainable packaging can be a strategic approach for unique brand positioning in the relevant market. Customer experience enhanced satisfaction when there it is easy to dispose of, reuse, or recycle the packaging tool. Sustainable packaging is associated with low cost as the reuse of packaging materials reduces material usage. Many companies have been accused of contributing to environmental pollution. Using sustainable packaging significantly reduces an organization’s carbon footprint. Many organizations are now adapting to more eco-friendly practices, and sustainable packaging is among the forefront aspects considered important for the future of any organization. The benefits that come with sustainable packaging create significant room for organizations to emulate better eco-friendly practices (García-Arca, González-Portela, & Prado-Prado, 2014). Campaigns are being carried all over the world to reduce pollution. With such diverse measures to combat pollution, plastic packaging is going to be reduced as it is a huge contributor to environmental pollution. Pollution is no longer a government fight. Consumers have become more engaged in reducing pollution, making it a necessity for each organization to embrace a future with various sustainable packaging measures.
In conclusion, change is inevitable. More measures are being developed to reduce and replace plastic packaging. Paper-based packaging such as carton boxes and papercraft are being used across the globe. Businesses are seen to be more than willing to accept new innovations that promote sustainability hence. Being the greatest players in sustainable packaging, sustainable packaging companies are being innovated and developed daily to replace plastic bags and containers. The approach has provided business opportunities for the packaging industry, hence establishing a solid ground for sustainable packaging.
Boz, Z., Korhonen, V., & Koelsch Sand, C. (2020). Consumer Considerations for the Implementation of Sustainable Packaging: A review. Sustainability, 12(6), pp. 2192.
De Koeijer, B., Gelhard, C., & Ten Klooster, R. (2019). Sustainability Priorities Across the Strategic and Operational level in Packaging Development. Packaging technology and science, 32(12), pp. 618-629.
García-Arca, J., González-Portela, T., & Prado-Prado, C. (2014). Packaging as Source of Efficient and Sustainable Advantages in Supply Chain Management. An Analysis of Briks. International Journal of Production Management and Engineering, 2(1), pp. 15-22.
Essay by: Chau Ngoc Loan Vo
Arizona State University – West