These days, it seems almost everything comes in a package, often one that’s difficult to open, contains too many layers, seems designed mainly to sell the product, and creates a mountain of non-recyclable waste.
Even packagers acknowledge they need to take steps to reduce their environmental impact.
“The reality is there is an over-packaging problem,” says Jim Downham, president and chief executive officer of the Packaging Association of Canada. “It’s a significant source of municipal solid waste.”
But the answer is more complex than just removing wrappings or replacing everything with more recyclable materials, he says.
“All the government guys want to do is tax and they only think about recycling. They’re all worried about the cost of their landfill,” Downham says. “I’m trying to reframe the discussion around sustainable packaging.
“This isn’t just about recycling. It’s about reducing energy consumption, reducing the use of raw materials,” he says. “Sustainable packaging is a much more holistic view. We consider recycling just one of the components of it.”
It’s also about staying in business. “If a company doesn’t make money, it’s not sustainable,” Downham says.
Historically, packaging served some pretty basic purposes. Manufacturers were concerned about the need to keep their products safe, secure, free from bacteria, tampering and other hazards.
Today, packaging has to meet a whole host of sometimes conflicting consumer expectations, marketing experts say.