Campaign Against Packaging Waste
Many in the packaging industry will have followed The Independent's
anti-waste campaign with a good deal of interest, for two main reasons.
First, because most of us want to ensure that we make a positive
contribution to sustainability by protecting and preserving products without
using excessive material or producing packs that are unfit for purpose.
Secondly, the paper publishes a large number of uninformed contributions
that cloud the issue rather than address some of the real problems.
Contrary to The Independent's comments (Leading article: 24 January) and the
views of some of its readers, the UK is not an overpackaged society compared
with many of our European neighbours, and although some of them may have
re-use and re-cycling schemes that we can learn from, nevertheless they
still use more packaging than we do. Figures from 2003 show that while the
UK's annual packaging consumption per capita was 167 kilos, in France it was
about 200, Italy 195, Spain 185 and Germany 190. Growth in the UK packaging
industry (at 0.6% per annum between 2000 and 2005) is also much lower than
for the UK industry average (5.1%) and this is in part the result of the
fact that the packaging industry has reduced the amount of materials used in
a range of packs.
Although glass bottles seem to be ideal for re-use, there are some less
obvious environmental costs to this process. Re-usable glass bottles need
to be made of heavier gauge glass to stand up to the knocks of handling and
cleansing. The impact of this additional material on production and
transport, along with the energy needed to return and cleanse the bottles,
needs to be considered in any environmental assessment. What is the point
of going for re-use if the total environmental impact is greater?
Much of the increase in packaging reflects social and lifestyle changes.
The increas in single person households, consumer requirements for ready
meals, and often excessive customer demands that food should be covered 'to
avoid contamination' all contribute to demands for increased packaging.
Finally, in countries with an undeveloped packaging supply chain, up to 50%
of all the food produced never gets consumed because of spoilage from
temperature, pests, problems arising from handling and transport etc.
The key functions of packaging are to preserve and protect products in a way
in which there is minimal waste and environmental impact. The Independent's
campaign is one that has highlighted many legitimate issues and concerns,
but it does need to avoid overpackaged comments.
Contact: Gordon Stewart on 01476 514593, email Gordon.Stewart@iom3.org
Date Posted: 6 February 2007