Packaging industry leaders have adopted more sustainable approaches and are benefiting through reduced production costs, greater supply chain engagement and improved ability to anticipate future risks and opportunities. However these efforts are being hampered by scepticism of industry’s efforts, data gaps and fragmented industry responses, according to a new report.
The report, commissioned by the Packaging Council of Australia (PCA), which has not yet been released to the public, says debates on issues such as recycling rates, container deposit legislation and plastic bags have detracted from addressing packaging sustainability more broadly and generated substantial pressure for regulatory intervention.
According to the PCA, brand owners and industry associations consulted feel that industry as a whole has failed to respond effectively to these issues by not identifying potential risks well enough in advance, lacking the data to respond effectively and/or failing to steer the debate by mounting comprehensive effective responses.
A report summary says, “A great deal of time and money has been wasted on issues that represent only a small fraction of packaging sustainability. Organisations that take a comprehensive approach to sustainability are better placed to keep an eye out for such issues and respond accordingly.”
The report prepared by MS2 and Perchards also says that waste minimisation is a part of environmental sustainability, but only a part. For packaging and packaged goods, the questions to focus on now are:
- Where are the biggest social, economic and environmental impacts and opportunities? and
- What can be done to reduce these impacts, while maximising economic benefits?
The report says the biggest issues are climate change and greenhouse gas emissions on the one hand, and depletion of the earth’s natural resources on the other.
It concludes, “Whereas all industrial activities are implicated in greenhouse gas emissions, the packaging and packaged goods industry is under attack specifically as an unnecessary user of materials.”