Sustainable packaging requires yin and yang thinking

Sustainable Materials Management and The Circular Economy are two big picture catch phrases competing for the attention of the packaging industry. Do you know which is better for the environment and which is better for your bottom line?

Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is a framework for minimizing the environmental impacts related to the consumption of products and services. It is based on the concept of lifecycle thinking, whereby the cradle-to-grave chain of inputs, throughputs and outputs of a specific product or service is measured, analyzed, compared and evaluated.

There are two primary aspects to SMM. The first relates to source reduction; the goal is to minimize the amount of materials and energy needed to deliver 100% of the value expected from purchased products and services.

After source reduction techniques are applied, the key to successful SMM implementation is to:

• Use only the most effective, efficient material and energy resources when creating products and services, and

• Keep those resources operating indefinitely within the economic system.

Doing so requires Circular Economy (CE) thinking, which minimizes disposability and waste while maximizing conservation, reuse and recovery.

When working within both SMM and CE frameworks, it is important to keep a couple of points in mind:

1. Looking at the “big picture” from a lifecycle perspective can produce counter-intuitive, but more effective, actions and results.

2. Because we haven’t yet invented a perpetual-motion machine, achieving SMM and CE is a journey, not a destination. Over time, innovation and its long-term effects can create the need to augment or modify strategies and tactics.

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Source: Packaging Digest