David Roberge

By: David Roberge on April 2nd, 2015

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Is Plastic Packaging Inherently Bad For The Environment?

Packaging Materials | Environment | The Business of Packaging

With respect to sustainability, plastics are often automatically given a snub compared to other packaging alternatives. But many presumptions about the environmental impacts of plastic are wrong. As it turns out, many plastics are in fact the best option we have when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging materials. Popular alternatives such as glass, metal, and cardboard are in fact significantly worse for our planet. How can that be? In the article below we explore some of the uncomfortable truths about plastics and the modern green-washing of alternative materials.


Sustainability... Do We Really Know What's Going On? 


A study completed in January 2014 by Franklin Associates on the impact of plastics packaging on life cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions shows that plastics are leading the way for reducing these emissions and energy use when compared to other materials including glass and paperboard.


The study concluded that using alternative packaging in the United States other than the plastics currently used and researched in the study (stretch, shrink, caps and beverage containers, bagging, rigid) would increase energy usage by 80 PERCENT. The impact of greenhouse gas emissions would be 130 PERCENT HIGHER! 


Beyond this study, flexible films packaging has been able to greatly reduce freight costs, as well as the impact of shipment on the environment. For example, by trading glass jars for flexible packaging films, the reduction in shipments was greatly impacted in a positive way. Flexible is the keyword here. One skid of a product utilizing shrink over-wrap can replace 40 skids of corrugated!  


What we can do to help the environment and our planet's future is to move from one form of packaging to another, more sustainable, packaging material. It is important to understand the true environmental impact of your packaging, "from cradle to grave". For the time being, running flexible packaging materials on your packaging machinery is the best environmentally-friendly choice.


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About David Roberge

I am grateful for my 9 years as part of the outstanding Industrial Packaging team. I was able to hang out with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the packaging industry. I feel even luckier that I was able to share that knowledge with you. I love learning, hiking, and growing people and teams both personally and professionally, and helping companies grow better.