Is the term sustainable packaging just a political smokescreen that hides an ugly truth about how manufacturers are getting around using real eco-friendly packaging materials and processes? Some say yes and that the term sustainable should be banned from marketing usage.
There are few generally accepted definitions of sustainability and sustainable practices.
We’ve all been tempered to think that sustainable materials and practices are all cut and dried and there’s no murky, gray areas where marketers could make a claim that really isn’t true. What then is the value of all the “green” logos in use today? Is it another case of “sugar free” where words just misrepresent the truth?
Well, in a world shaped by marketing, those boundaries and gray areas represent billions of dollars and where there’s money, there’s politics.
From a report by the Packaging News UK:
‘Sustainable packaging does not exist’ Jane Bickerstaffe, chief executive of Incpen, commented: “The industry is streets ahead of the Government in the work it is doing but politicians are only interested in packaging once its lifecycle has ended.
“Leading retailers, manufacturers and consumer groups including the Packaging Federation, Incpen, Diageo, Boots, P&G, Nestle and Rexam also unanimously agreed that the much used sustainable packaging phrase should be phased out and the focus should be on ensuring packaging delivers maximum sustainability throughout the entire supply chain and is recoverable after use.”
What are the sustainability myths specifically?
- That plastic is less sustainable than paper when in fact, at times, plastic may take less energy in production that similarly used cardboard/paper stock.
- That paper is more eco-friendly when shrink-wrap may perform the same packaging function as cardboard inserts and dividers in a cardboard case
- That cutting back on packaging won’t create more product damage, leading to more waste
- That materials can be recycled and used endlessly when in fact they may only be reused a few times
- That many recycled/sustainable packaging products don’t end up in landfills
Whether sustainability in advertising is true or false really comes down to the consumer really understanding the characteristics of the packaging and how it was manufactured. But in educating the consumer so well about packaging, we end up making packaging more expensive.
How do you feel about the use of terms and logo images as they pertain to sustainability? Does your organization live up to its claims of eco-responsibility and sustainability? Do you think other areas of sustainability such as biofuels are also fraudulent and leading us into more serious problems down the road?
Let us know in the comments below. Tell us your story.
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