Packaging has moved on from being viewed as nothing more than the material surrounding a product to something that businesses use to showcase their commitment to caring for the environment. Nowadays, sustainable packaging is even used to improve product branding or a company’s brand image. This is explained by the general population’s increased interest in saving the planet and the corresponding demand for more environmentally-friendly business models. Employing sustainable plastic could be one of the keys to achieving this objective. At SP Group, we would like to give you some insight into this packaging revolution.
The evolution of sustainable plastics
Plastic has traditionally been associated with a deterioration in the status of our environment. However, in the early days of ‘classic’ plastics, they were actually the option that had the least negative impact on the environment. They were lighter than other materials and saved tons of carbon emissions across companies’ distribution and logistics channels. However, they did turn into an issue at the end of their useful life.
The traditional means of dealing with this situation has always consisted of manufacturing new plastic to cover demand, discarding used plastic and starting the cycle all over again. But the issue is not the nature of plastic itself, because it is a material that has helped mankind to progress a great deal in many different fields; the issue with plastic is managing the waste. It has caused huge issues in ecosystems and it is now very clear that, if we want to decrease the damage we do to the environment, the cycle needs to change. But how? By bringing in a more circular system in which plastics are given a second useful life.
There are initiatives aimed at attaining models that make plastic a more sustainable product. In other words, plastic that can be easily recycled or even composted. Lots of companies have already signed up to the sustainability challenge by using packaging made entirely from sustainable plastic. This is possible because, unlike other materials, post-consumer PET and similar materials can be recycled and used again in food contact applications. Examples such as these are living proof that attaining a more circular economy is possible when the companies on the value chain take a more active role in the process, accept their social responsibilities and work to make materials recyclable.
Sustainable plastics: an opportunity for change
We should not underestimate the steps that businesses are taking towards making our existence a more sustainable one, but the fact is that some of the credit must go to the consumers who are demanding these changes. The general population is increasingly aware of the need to care for the environment. Data obtained from research carried out in Spain illustrates this.
Research indicates that 4 out of 5 consumers (79% of survey respondents) are prepared to pay more for products that have sustainable packaging. Additional insight obtained from this research included, for example, the fact that 32% of respondents believed that businesses were not doing enough to implement use of more sustainable packaging.
What’s more, in Spain, thanks to consumer commitment to the environment, recycling of plastic packaging at home has doubled over the last decade, reaching 616,282 tons in 2020.
But the facts do not end there. Other lines of research also highlight this trend among young people and particularly among the Millennial generation. They have used social media to foster use of sustainable plastic in the packaging world. This social movement has shaped the type of packaging now used in the food industry in particular, but the trend is also extending into other sectors.
More and more industries are developing and making use of new sustainable plastics. Furthermore, in addition to public demand, laws that are increasingly stricter on environmental protection are being enacted and this is helping to boost the journey towards fully-fledged sustainability.
Sustainable packaging and plastic and corporate social responsibility
Socially-responsible companies are those that think along the lines of giving something back to society as they do business. This social responsibility currently means upholding quality standards that are underpinned by caring for the environment. One of best ways that businesses have of beginning to achieve and sustain this practice is by choosing to use packaging that is made from sustainable plastic and that is less harmful for the planet.
Furthermore, the process of change towards recycled and recyclable packaging will most likely translate into increased product sales in these businesses. As mentioned above, you just have to take a look at consumer opinion and take into account that consumers are prepared to accept a small price increase in exchange for a more circular economy.
Without a doubt, it is a system that benefits consumers and businesses; the former get the sustainable packaging they want and the latter increase their profits. It is hardly surprising that this trend has led to more and more advertising campaigns focusing on the use of sustainable plastic and encouraging other companies to make changes to their packaging choices.