Packaging Innovation for Sustainability

Packaging innovation is occurring with new technology development and new applications of existing technologies to improve packaging performance. Packaging producers are working to displace environmentally inferior materials, reduce product damage during transport, extend product shelf life and improve resource efficiency.

The Plant PET Technology Collaborative of Coca Cola, Ford, Heinz, Nike and Procter & Gamble is working to replace virgin plastics with plant based PET materials. Another sustainable development is mushroom packaging, which is marketed as a substitute for expanded polystyrene.

To extend the shelf life of food, Marks & Spencer is adding a small strip of clay and other minerals to the bottom of the plastic strawberry containers. The strip absorbs ethylene delaying ripening and spoilage. Curwood created FreshCase vacuum packaging, which uses a proprietary additive to preserve the bright red color of fresh meat.

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Major brand owners setting packaging sustainability goals

Brand owners like Starbucks, Pepperidge Farm and Campbell’s are setting aggressive goals to make their packaging sustainable.

Pepperidge Farm plans to eliminate 100 million pounds of packaging by 2020. Pepperidge Farm has already reduced plastics usage 65% by redesigning the Goldfish bread and deli flats packages.

Campbell’s Soup Co. has seen results by replacing the company’s V8 brand of juice drinks with lightweight bottles. Campbell’s is looking into waste audits in its bakery brands.

Starbucks Coffee Co intends to make all of their cups recyclable by 2015.


Should your company go green?

Companies should consider these three aspects when investing in sustainable packaging: cost, functionality and long-term effects. If the cost of switching to sustainable packaging is too high, the increase may need to be passed onto customers and if customers are not willing to pay the increase, the company’s bottom line will be affected. Since the role of packaging is to protect products, your company will need to ensure the sustainable packaging is effective in protecting products. Companies changing to sustainable packaging should also make sure their packaging has positive long-term effects on the environment.

Companies using sustainable packaging will enjoy not only environmental benefits, but will also enjoy other advantages like government tax benefits and incentives. Initially companies will incur increased costs when going green, however these costs are reduced over time. Less weight packaging lowers transportation costs and reduces greenhouse gases. Using recycled material equates with less waste in the landfill, reducing the overall cost to society.

Here are some companies already going green:

Gap Inc. uses sustainable packaging in all areas, even their gift cards. The Gap’s gift cards are manufactured from fiber and post-consumer waste by a process that uses 100% green energy.

Kohl’s uses sustainable packaging for boxes and gift wrapping. The company only works with vendors who are highly receptive to sustainable packaging.

Coca Cola has announced they are working to become a low carbon, zero waste company in the US and are going to improve their sustainability packaging goals in Europe.