The summer barbecue season is here. And while you may be stressed about finding the right meat to grill, making sure the fires are crisp and the salad is fresh, there’s something else to be stressed about: the packaging the food came in.
While packaging is used to protect your meat, fries and salad its volume sales contributes to unsustainable use of natural resources and environmental waste.
Flexible packaging, rigid plastics, metal, glass, paper-based containers, liquid cartons and other packaging added up to a staggering 3.4 trillion units of global retail packaging in 2016.
The entire food and beverage sphere accounted for 92 per cent of retail packaging volume in the very same year.
With these types of sobering statistics, the impulse to go green is gaining momentum. Increasing environmental concerns impact consumers purchasing decisions.
With the rise of green consumerism, brands have the responsibility to act on packaging sustainability.
Sustainable packaging makes business sense
Along the supply chain, from the end product manufacturer, raw packaging materials and machinery supplier, packaging converter and distributor – up to the retailer, all have costs to control and – their corporate image to sustain. Integrating sustainability into brand strategy requires new business models built around packaging sustainability, incorporating waste management services, packaging standards and certification providers.
Motivation and the will for going the extra mile to drive sustainable, circular packaging, retailers and consumer goods companies can raise their packaging sustainability profile by taking on various initiatives.
Turning necessity into opportunity
Less packaging needs to turn into higher-performing packaging. This starts at the product design stage. Avoiding packaging layers while still meeting the right level of product’s requirements: preservation, usability and safety.
Danone (Canada) claims to save 25 per cent packaging material with its re-launched Oikos and Activia Greek 4-pack yogurts.
The new packages are in smaller, more rigid thin wall containers with new lids. To avoid the need for the overwrap, a carton multipack holds the yogurt cups together and are attached through their peel-off lid.
These types of efforts create various opportunities: high brand image and value for money while removing or reducing the generation of material and toxic waste.
And smaller packs are more suitable for on-the-go consumption, with less product waste through portion control. Also, lighter packs bring along lower logistical costs.
Zero packaging and subscriptions
Alternative retailing concepts like subscription box services are gaining momentum. Consumers simply provide their tastes and preferences and schedule a regular delivery of an assortment of tailor-made products: organic, seasonal fruit and vegetables alongside recipe ideas.
THis creates a real revenue stream for fresh food. Best practices by Hello Fresh or Gousto are alternatives to in-store grocery shopping as both answer consumers’ quest for convenience and trend towards a personalised experience.
With health and wellness, fair-trade and buying local gaining traction, the global rise of ‘Zero-Waste’ grocery stores or ‘Packaging-Free’ supermarkets support green consumers zero-waste life.
In Hong Kong, Live Zero leaves no shred of plastic wrap in sight. Rather a wholesaler than a traditional grocery store, at Live Zero goods are stored in clear self-service bins or dispensers.
From flour to olive oil to shampoo, consumers can pour as much as they need into containers which they brought from home.
In the United States, a New Yorker can reduce their environmental impact by reducing food and packaging waste via Precycle, the first store in New York that sells package-free produce, bulk food and home goods.
In Sicily, Negozio Leggero offers consumers to pour their wine, spices, coffee, nuts and more into containers.
In South Africa, SHOPZERO offers green options for earth-conscious consumers with little or zero packaging. United Kingdom: The Clean Kilo: the country’s biggest zero-waste supermarket. Germany: Original Unverpackt. Canada: Zero Waste Emporium. France: mes courses EN VRAC. Indonesia: Zero Waste Bali. Austria: Lieber Ohne.
Waste management: The new normal
The quest for biodegradable and recyclable packaging helps the environment. Paper and cardboard are reusable, recyclable and biodegradable.
Corn starch is biodegradable and ideal for take-away food. Bubble wrap made from recycled polythene is entirely degradable. Biodegradable plastic, commonly used in plastic bags these days, starts to decompose when exposed to daylight.
In Germany, Aldi scrapped single-use bags. Aligned to its pledge to cut down on plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2024, the new compostable bags are made of biodegradable material and designed to be a 100 per cent domestically compostable within a year.
Embed packaging sustainability into business strategy
The World Economic Forum restated the global need to shift to a circular economy. Retailers and their supply chain partners need to look at their overall activities and processes.
With packaging presenting a part of the entire ecological footprint, it needs to be changed. Re-think and Re-design – NOW.
This article was published on forbes.com and written by Carina Legl.