The question of sustainable packaging is a hot topic in recent times, but it seems like it is a more complex problem than we realise. Although brand owners, retailers and regulators are aware of the importance and need for sustainability, at the moment there is no global alignment on how to measure sustainability across varying interlinked elements.
One problem seen in many of the major consumer-facing companies that have ambitiously committed to significantly reduce their greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions is a heavy focus on recycling. By concentrating on improving recyclability and increasing recycled content, they are failing to see the bigger picture — which requires taking an end-to-end view of the value chain and applying a science-based approach to quantifying emissions profiles.
Because true packaging sustainability is not just about recycling, as McKinsey & Company explain in a recent report. They discovered that for many brand owners and retailers, the focus for packaging has been primarily around circularity (recyclability and recycled content), but there is in fact a growing interest from consumers in carbon footprint and elimination of waste leakage. When seeing this bigger picture, it becomes clear that these three elements of sustainability are interlinked and they must be balanced carefully to best optimise overall sustainability in packaging.
Here are the three elements of packaging sustainability in more detail: