The Life of Packaging

Cartoon of supply chain
The product and packaging sustainability chain

The complex life of packaging is mostly invisible to people who only see one small part of its role in enabling goods to go from producer or manufacturer via the retailer to the consumer and – having done its job – to be sent for recycling or energy recovery

Consumers and politicians:

  • see only two links in the chain – retailers and waste collectors
  • focus on ‘packaging waste’
  • are unaware of packaging’s role in the supply chain
  • think retailers use too much packaging
  • think councils should "recycle” (collect) all their waste

The whole chain needs to help retailers and councils explain that packaging:

  • prevents products going to waste and food being spoilt
  • provides people with products to suit their needs and expectations
  • protects far more resources (invested in products) than are used to make packaging
  • after use, value can be recovered from all used packaging either as energy or material

Packaging in the supply chain and packaging after use

In the supply chain: Protecting goods and the materials, energy and water invested in them to minimise damage and spoilage:

  • Extending product life time
  • Protecting human health
  • Barrier properties
  • Strength
  • Carrying information, branding

After use: Potential source of secondary raw materials or energy

  • Tonnage, location of waste
  • Level of contamination
  • Top priority: AMOUNT OF MATERIAL

Policy makers often ignore the many advantages of modern packaging

See Packaging World article; Proudly proclaiming packaging’s praises pushes public policy