Sustainable packaging - myth or reality

Revisiting the debate

"The main interests that consumers have in packaging are about the personal benefit they gain in terms of price, convenience and about how it helps them with their purchasing decision. Only when it’s discarded do local environmental impacts become a consideration."

Rowland Hill, Marks & Spencer

"It is even more important than ever before to find the so-called innovation sweet spot where consumer needs, environmental impact, technical & business capabilities converge."

Anne Roulin, Nestle

"Companies have shifted their attention from addressing just one issue or a selection of issues on one topic to a more holistic approach incorporating economic, environmental and social considerations."

Jane Bickerstaffe, Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN)

"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about lightweighting, recycled content or recyclability as the ultimate measures of how sustainable a package is have been replaced by a more holistic debate around the product, the package and their use from inception to postconsumer use."

Peter White, P&G

"Collaboration up and down the supply chain is the way forward, with technology and innovation being the crucial components of progress."

Michael Wilson, Diageo
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This new report revisits the packaging debate and tracks the progress the industry has made towards closer collaboration between stakeholders that goes beyond the term sustainable packaging.

The UK packaging industry, leading retailers, manufacturers and consumer groups we spoke to are unanimously agreed that the much used sustainable packaging term should be phased out and the focus should be on ensuring packaging delivers maximum sustainability throughout the entire supply chain and is recoverable after use.

The conclusions show how fast-paced the industry is in developing new technologies and the use of exciting materials but we need to stop using the term sustainable packaging. The industry is working towards efficient products, packaging, transport and end of life solutions. The drive is to make the entire supply chain more efficient.


View transcript

Malcolm Preston:

How many of us in the Western World think twice about packaging? My guess is we don’t because as consumers it isn’t the packing we buy it’s the products. Yet we are living in a resource squeezed society, a society where we bin over a third of the food we buy – this compares to just 3% in the supply chain. All this at a time when food scarcity and food security is likely to become an issue for us all to contend with. It appears the hallmarks of a throwaway society are there for us all to see and learn from, in our new report ‘Sustainable packaging myth or reality? we got to grips with the importance of packaging and the achievements of the industry. Not only in food preservation but in prolonging product life and making our own lives just a little bit easier. Having just returned from the Rio+20 summit, it is clear that the baton has been passed to business to accelerate the sustainability agenda. So what better time then to see the role of packaging – not as a problem - but as a solution to the broader issues we face. We engage with some of the World’s biggest player from M&S to Diageo and the result is this; industry is racing ahead in technology, new materials, product innovation and is really working to make the entire supply chain more energy efficient – and it is succeeding.

And as consumers it is all too easy for us to throw something away or recycle it, but we should consider the afterlife of a product, look at how we could reduce and re-use our goods. The term Sustainable Packaging should no longer be used as a concept but instead replaced by an understanding and collaboration between Government, Industry, Retailers and of course Consumers. Our teams in packaging and sustainability are here to answer any questions you may have, but take a look at our Report and share your views with us.

Thank you