Sustainability is of the highest concern to consumers nowadays, and they demand that companies follow more environmentally-friendly processes. In this regard, sustainable packaging is a priority for many companies that have already taken this significant step, focusing on greener techniques. But, how can you attain a more sustainable packaging? We tell you below.
Sustainable packaging regulations
Several institutions have been increasingly encouraging the use of ecological packaging with the purpose of reducing their impact on the environment. There are various regulations that govern this matter. One of them is Directive 2018/852 of the European Council on packaging and waste, which amends Directive 94/62/EC. The recent amendment to this Directive, which will enter into effect before 2020, has the purpose of increasing and enhancing the packaging waste recycling measures to better reflect the EU’s intent of moving toward a circular economy. It establishes measures to limit the production of packaging waste and promote recycling and reuse, as well as other ways of adding value to this waste.
The European Commission fosters these types of regulations and demands that all member states verify commercialized packages to ensure their compliance with some basic requirements:
- Keep packaging weight and volume as low as possible to guarantee an adequate level of security, hygiene and acceptability for the consumer.
- Reduce the content of hazardous substances in packaging materials and components to the lowest possible value.
- Design reusable packaging, or packaging that can be re-valued.
“Several institutions have been increasingly encouraging the use of ecological packaging with the purpose of reducing their impact on the environment”
In addition to this, there is also the EUMOS 40509-2012 test method, which outlines a dynamic testing method to analyze the rigidity and safety of a cargo unit that is subjected to horizontal accelerations and decelerations, such as those that take place during transportation in industrial vehicles while on the road.
In order to pass this test, it is first necessary to have attained an optimal product + packaging system consisting of characterizing the packaging and baling & palletizing, thereby avoiding under-packaging and over-packaging. If the latter is not controlled, it would result in increased waste resulting from an excessive use of materials, with its associated environmental impact, in addition to an increase in costs and the logistical inefficiency this implies for the companies.
Why is it so important to use eco-friendly packages?
The growing global environment awareness, both by companies and by consumers, is generating a shift in the paradigm. This leads the packaging sector to seek sustainable packaging materials that allow for the creation of a more eco-friendly packaging, as well as methods to reduce the amount of packaging without affecting its ability to protect the product.
In light of this, nowadays most companies are focused on finding a balance between three key aspects: respect for the environment, cost-balancing and consumer satisfaction. These are some of the measures that have been taken toward this end:
- Ban on the commercialization, import and export of disposable plastic tableware (plates, cups, cutlery and straws) since January 1, 2020.
- Since March of 2018, plastic bags will no longer be free.
- All commercialized plastic packages will be reusable or easily recyclable in the EU by the year 2030.
“Most companies are focused on finding a balance between three key aspects: respect for the environment, cost-balancing and consumer satisfaction”
In regard to the packaging, there are a number of factors to keep in mind to make it more sustainable:
- Reducing the amount of packaging material is effective in most cases, as long as this reduction does not imply a hindrance for the product.
- Using sustainable packaging materials that are recyclable and biodegradable, instead of disposable plastics or cans. This helps reduce generated waste and companies’ environmental footprints.
- Innovating by manufacturing more eco-friendly materials extracted from the biomass, such as cellulose or starch, natural monomers or those that are produced by microorganisms.
- Reusable packaging is a good alternative to disposable packaging. Boxes, labels, plastics and others that would end up in the trash can be reused and turned into other products. To this end, sustainable design plays a major role, since it allows for a product’s lifetime to be increased by repurposing it with respect to its initial use.
- Space optimization is also very important. More products per box should be transported by optimizing the shape of the primary packaging so that more products can fit per box.
Benefits of using environmentally friendly packaging
Both in terms of cost-effectiveness and sustainability, obtaining an optimal packaging is essential for any company that transports its products on the road. In 2014, 4% of the goods transported by road were damaged due to inadequate packaging systems. This implied losses for approximately 50 billion euros.
This is why one of the main benefits of attaining an optimal product + packaging system is reducing costs due to shrinkage and preventing over-packaging, which results in an increase of material waste and a significant environmental impact.
Another major benefit of sustainable packaging is safety, since attaining an optimal package + packaging system allows for an increased road freight safety, considering that, in 2017, 25% of recorded truck accidents resulted from unsecured loads.
Furthermore, focusing on the use of ecological packaging will provide companies with a better brand image, since consumers significantly value companies that are committed to the environment.
“One of the main benefits of attaining an optimal product + packaging system is reducing costs due to shrinkage and preventing over-packaging”
What tests are available to attain a sustainable packaging?
In order to obtain more sustainable primary, secondary and tertiary packages, some companies in the packaging sector test their products with the purpose of characterizing and optimizing them.
Various tests can be performed to measure the properties of paper, cardboard, corrugated cardboard and plastic. The properties that can be measured by testing machines may be physical, surface, mechanical, structural or thermal characteristics, among others.
For the tertiary packaging, the main testing method to obtain a more environmentally friendly packaging is the EUMOS method. It enables the obtainment of an optimal, safe packaging for transport, since using more plastic than required to wrap the load has a strong impact on the environment, in addition to implying significant costs for the company. But at the same time, using less packaging material than required by a package leaves it more exposed to getting damaged due to falls, accelerations/decelerations of the truck or impacts.
Additionally, as stated at the beginning of this article, Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste also governs certain aspects of eco-friendly packaging, such as the limitation of packages’ weight and volume, the reduction of hazardous substance contents and the design of reusable packages.
In summary, sustainability is growing in importance by the day in the packaging sector, which means that those companies that are not yet focusing on the use of sustainable packaging should start considering this transition. At Safe Load we can assist companies in this regard; get in touch with us if you are interested.
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