Sustainability, huh, yeah
What is it good for?
— Sing it to the tune of War (What is it Good For?) by Edwin Starr
As industry suppliers move forward with sustainability-driven projects, there is pressure to be first, be fast, and effectively solve the challenges of sustainable products and packaging. While this pressure is healthy to promote innovation, it can lead companies to missteps, recalling cautionary tales of CPG and packaging sailors shipwrecked on jagged rocks, drawn by the sustainability siren’s song without proper planning.
It’s not just about the package itself, but also its production, use and disposal.
What good is sustainability? We’d probably all agree that the environmental (and hopefully financial) benefits of sustainability are numerous and widespread. However, some sustainable solutions may not provide their designed benefit when looked at in their broader context. Below are some examples of some recent packaging news stories I’ve picked up out of the UK, although they are universally applicable. Amazon’s move to more plastic and pouch packaging may enable the company to fit more products in its trucks and therefore improve efficiency, but this currently un-recyclable packaging now must be landfilled as waste.
So, too, for McDonald's, which rolled out paper straws in its UK restaurants. Although the paper used is widely recyclable, the straws are too thick to be recycled, which was previously possible with their plastic straws. These examples help underline the complexity of the packaging space. It’s not just about the package itself, but its production, use, and disposal that all play a role in building a true 360-degree environmental profile.
Our customers, their customers, retailers and consumers are all trying to figure out our priorities. Do we value bio-based, recyclable, compostable, zero emissions and so on? And is "all of the above" even possible? We’ll keep working at full sail towards checking as many of these boxes as possible with an approach that takes into account all of the many factors (and jagged rocks) at play in the sustainable packaging odyssey.
Batten down the hatches!
— Simon, Packaging Pirate
Amazon under fire for new packaging that cannot be recycled
Amazon has been criticised by environmental groups and customers after introducing a range of plastic packaging that cannot be recycled in the UK.
While supermarkets and other retailers have been reducing their use of single use plastics, the world’s biggest online retailer has started sending small items in plastic envelopes, seemingly to allow more parcels to be loaded on to each delivery truck.
McDonald's new paper straws aren't recyclable — but its axed plastic ones were
McDonald's has reportedly admitted that its new paper straws, rolled out last year to help "protect the environment," can't be recycled — unlike the plastic versions they replaced. The straws were introduced to all 1,361 McDonald's restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland after a trial last year.
But the fast food giant acknowledged on Monday that the new versions are too thick to be processed by its recyclers.