A question that often gets raised is how should material resources for packaging be measured – by weight, carbon or something else?
Isn’t the answer: It depends on what stage the packaging is in its life? 
In the supply chain, neither weight nor carbon content of packaging are critical.  The most important factor is that it has the right physical properties to protect products and the resources invested in growing food and making other goods. Ten times more resources are invested to make products than to make their packaging.
It does not matter that a glass bottle for champagne is thick and heavy.  It needs to be.  Or that a flexible pouch weighs only a few grams if that is sufficient to protect its contents. Nor should whether or not the pack would be recyclable after use influence the choice of materials used.
Used packaging has the potential to be a secondary material.  Like virgin materials, it is bought by quantity so weight is important, alongside its ability to protect a product.  Carbon is not important because no one buys a product or packaging for its carbon content.

What do you think?

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On 16 Sep 2016, Alan Davey wrote:

Completely agree. The system at large has spent the last 50 years optimising food packaging for cost vs efficiency. For me, and I have demonstrated this for many materials options - cost equals resource use, equals carbon to all intents and purposes. There’s no need to ask about carbon or resource content. If it’s the cheapest way to do a job, it’s the most resource efficient.. Therefore food packaging is by and large optimised for cost vs benefit. If this is disrupted by skewing the market there will inevitably be resource and carbon penalties. It makes no sense for organisations external to the supply chain to try to influence or “rationalise” material choice. If it is done it can only be at the expense of resource efficiency So…… all circular economy proposals must be grounded in resource efficiency. Alan Davey LINPAC