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Sustainability opportunities 'beyond the package'

New AMERIPEN brochure emphasizes the importance of looking at the entire product and packaging system when considering sustainability.

SustainablePackaging-.00001.jpgThe American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) is offering a new online brochure, “Enhancing the Sustainability of Products and Packaging,” that urges the packaging industry to think more broadly about the role that packaging plays in the total system that it supports, in developing strategies and programs to reduce waste. Rather than focusing on packaging weight reductions, AMERIPEN promotes a more comprehensive approach that considers the combined economic, environmental, and social impacts of both packages and the products they contain.

“Often the first place companies go when implementing sustainability strategies is to look for ways to reduce packaging. While that seems like an obvious place to start, it doesn't take long to realize that reducing or minimizing packaging can actually cost more than it saves," says AMERIPEN president Gail Tavill. "The least sustainable thing we can do is to reduce the performance of the package to the point that it no longer protects the product, or fails to deliver the functionality intended by producers and expected by consumers.

“AMERIPEN has taken the position that true sustainability of the system requires us to look beyond the package and to consider the product, the supply chain through which it travels, and how well it functions for its ultimate purpose. From this perspective, we should be thinking more about goals to optimize packaging, not minimize it.”

Advises the brochure, “The best way to create a more sustainable package…is to look at the big picture and ask the following:

1. What is the product or application that is being contained, protected, transported, sold, promoted, and ultimately used?

2. What is the functional, economic, and social value of that product?

3. What role can packaging play in the delivery of maximum product value and use?

4. What are the economic, environmental, and social costs associated with product breakage, spoilage, misuse, and non-use?

5. What is the best way to balance the requirement of delivering a pristine product with the goal of minimizing waste/excess packaging?

“When it comes to the development of more sustainable packaging,” the brochure adds, “this holistic, system-wide approach moves the discussion in a new direction—one of optimization.”

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