Packaging’s Role In Reducing Environmental Impact



Written by Thierry Gihan, Global Marketing Director of Tetra Recart.

Sustainable packaging design no longer “a nice-to-have”
The environmental impact and sustainability credentials of food and drink packaging are now firmly at the front of consumers’ minds. This interest has progressed from a focus on the end-of-life of a package – over 80% of consumers are now actively recycling waste – to an increasing appreciation of the beginning-of-life, with food manufactures associating ethically sourced products with good quality. Furthermore, two thirds of consumers say that they have bought environmental products, even when they cost more.

This means that sustainable practice is no longer a nice-to-have, but an essential part of doing business in the packaging industry. In response, the industry has been focusing its attention on innovating across three key areas – design, materials and production – which all lead to significant reductions in environmental footprint.

Looking first at design, two foremost developments have been in weight and shape. Lowering weight reduces a package’s environmental footprint both directly – in terms of less materials used – and indirectly – through emissions saved during manufacturing, transport and recycling. Package shape has become a particular focus point for retailers and food producers, as an efficient square or rectangular design can hold more food, facilitate faster shelf replenishment, reduce waste handling and optimise use of shelf space to help lower direct product cost (DPC) for retailers. Furthermore, these modern packages allow a clearer view of high quality printing on all sides, increasing information visibility for consumers considering their next purchase in the supermarket aisle.

Secondly, the materials used in packaging have become a primary focus of the industry as consumers become more environmentally aware. According to research by Tetra Pak, the world’s largest packaging company, consumers are increasingly expressing a preference for cartons because they are made of renewable resources such as paper board, and nearly 40% of consumers now look for environmental logos when shopping.

Recognising this consumer trend, Tetra Pak has been investing in creating renewable packaging, which was an industry first. The company and other industry players have also increased engagement with objective, third party environmental measurements. These include the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™) and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which help showcase environmental credentials to consumers who are increasingly hungry for information on this subject.

View/download the Tetra Recart infographic: The evolution of sustainable packaging for a modern world. (pdf)

Last but not least is production – and the ongoing innovation in packaging production lines that allows modern machines to deliver vastly improved operational efficiencies and overall environmental performance. For producers, this means less water and energy consumption, reduced waste production as well as lower CO2 emissions. Achieving these reductions allows them to address increasing consumer demand for environmental efficiency, stay competitive and operate their business in a sustainable way. For instance, the machine used to produce Tetra Recart – the Tetra Pak® R2 – is able to produce 6,000 packages an hour with a 30% lower carbon footprint compared to the previous development step.

These three key areas of innovation have resulted in the creation of ground-breaking products, such as the Tetra Recart® package, and demonstrate the contribution packaging can make towards the sustainability agendas of producers and consumers. As the world’s population grows, demand for packaging and pressure on the environment will only increase. Industry leaders have recognised this and are taking their responsibility as seriously by continuing to invest in developments that minimise environmental impact.

About the author
Thierry Gihan is the Global Marketing Director of Tetra Recart and is responsible for market strategy working with global food manufacturers and retailers around the world. Tetra Recart is the first carton based package for retortable food. A great alternative to cans and glass jars.