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The costs vs. benefits of green packaging

Business Wire -- Paying attention to the environment pays dividends, says Rita Schenck, Executive Director, Institute for Environmental Research and Education. A greener approach to food and beverage packaging may require some initial investment, but that is the case when improving any process. A speaker at the marcus evans Food & Beverage Packaging & Design Summit 2011, taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 23-25, Schenck discusses the costs and benefits of going green, and what the industry can do to prepare.

What are the costs vs. benefits of green packaging?
Rita Schenck: “Executives are under pressure to improve the environmental impacts of the packaging of their products. But what may initially appear to be a burden could actually benefit their bottom line. In product design there are many business advantages to taking the green approach. The cost of packaging and shipping goes down when the package gets smaller. That makes sense, but there are less direct benefits as well. For instance, the cost of shipping can be reduced as a decrease in package size means you can ship more products than before. There is also a marketing opportunity for corporations who make these types of changes to improve their environmental profile, to say they are green and that they care about the environment with proof of their actions.

Being green can pay off in other not so obvious ways. Using only as much material as needed not only makes sense, it conserves limited resources. But there are actually big opportunities that are important for food and beverage producers like the opportunity not to waste the contents of their products. When we look at the life cycle impact of a package versus its contents, the packaging is often only 10 per cent of the total environmental impact of the product. Smart packaging can preserve the product and extend its life cycle, thereby decreasing its environmental impact while increasing its shelf life.”
What else should packaging and design executives consider?

Rita Schenck: “People are reducing packaging by using less material but also by thinking about packaging as a whole. For example, by making sure the case fills up the pallet or designing milk packaging which utilizes the space in the container and case. It is all about efficiency in the use of space and materials. There are always little things that can be done to improve packaging.”

How will the global drive for greener packaging affect food and beverage manufacturers? How could the industry prepare for the changes ahead?
Rita Schenck: “One of the most interesting trends right now is the global drive towards environmental declarations — think of this like a nutrition label for the environment; they are based on a product’s life cycle assessment and carbon, landing and water footprint. France is requiring all consumer goods to have this label. This will have a massive impact across the economy because the EU and US Federal Government are looking very closely at the French experiment and gearing up to do the same.

Executives need to be thinking about this from two points of views. Firstly, they need to know the environmental impact of their packaging in order to disclose the right information. Secondly they need to redesign the packaging of their products in order to present that information.
The French are working with parties around the world to ensure that these requirements do not create trade barriers. The industry needs to play a role in making sure that these initiatives can be met and that labelling requirements are harmonized across the world.”

Source: marcus evans

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