Supermarkets around the world have responded to global pressure to reduce plastics by getting rid of as much of it as possible.
Tesco recently announced it would stop selling multipacks of tins wrapped in single-use plastic while it is removing plastic from its own brand products.
It is more complicated for drinks manufacturers such as Perrier, whose brand identity depends on its iconic packaging and uses high levels of PET. Philippe Gallard, International Business Unit Director at Perrier, says, “We use a range of materials for our packaging including glass, aluminium and plastics. PET is also a fully recyclable material that can be widely recycled into multiple products including bottles.”
He points out that plastics offer a unique combination of malleability, availability, hygiene and safety.
This week, at the Change Now summit in Paris, Perrier announced that it would be working with three small startups on three innovative kinds of packaging.
Perrier intends to act as an incubator, supporting researchers, start-ups, public institutions, and NGOs, in inventing greener packaging solutions and new technologies and innovations.
The French company will invest up to one million euros in three projects, due to be launched by 2025.
Biotic is a bio-based and biodegradable plastic, produced from agricultural waste. The project, which is based in Africa, is helping to create well-paid jobs for women in areas where these are not often found.
Flexikeg & Perrier is a collaboration which will deliver beverages like water in an innovative and re-usable flexible keg, using less plastic and creating lower carbon emissions in manufacturing.
A mix of high and low-tech solutions are on offer at PlastiSkul, which is setting up micro factories to transform waste into usable materials in a way that can be easily adopted in developing countries.
The idea is to bring this out to the community, with an education and training program for local entrepreneurs.
Gallard says the company wants to close the emissions loop in packaging. “We are committed to play our part in addressing the growing global plastic packaging issue.”
Plastic Can Be Fantastic
Perhaps we should be talking about how to use plastic more intelligently; simply getting rid of it all is currently not an option.
The Swedish packaging company Tetra Pak, which uses a plastic liner within its paper cartons, is developing plastics from renewable feedstocks and recycled plastics, providing they are safe.
After all, as Dr Rudolph Kalveks, CEO of Rudolph Kalveks Associates, points out, “Plastic is plastic – it doesn’t matter where it comes from, whether it’s oil or plants, although it is easier to make some plastics from oil and others from plants.”
“Sustainability is about choosing the most effective packaging, considering all aspects of the supply chain, and adopting sensible end-of-life solutions,” Kalveks argues.
He welcomes innovative polymers that could mitigate marine pollution, and energy recovery solutions that can eliminate waste and avoid the need to cut down forests for biomass and biofuels.
Other innovative technologies, such as pyrolysis, the thermal decomposition of materials at high temperatures, may play a future role in the treatment of plastic waste.
The danger in the plastic debate is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. The race for a greener kind plastics is on.
Published on forbes.com
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