Why is packaging needed? Although seen by many as an unnecessary evil — only used for branding and marketing reasons — the role of packaging extends far beyond this stereotype.
Plastics packaging is an essential component of a large proportion of the goods that we consume every day. Among other benefits, it preserves and protects edible products – preventing waste and reducing net carbon emissions involved in food production. Recent and ongoing innovations have meant that certain types of plastics packaging can now perform these particular functions even more effectively than ever before. However, the packaging itself has traditionally presented challenges in terms of its ability to contribute to a circular economy.
Up until recently, some of the most effective packaging when it comes to preventing food waste has proved to be among the more difficult to recycle at end of life. Of the 78 million tonnes of plastics packaging produced globally on annual basis, only 14% is collected for recycling. While a further 14% is incinerated/recovered to create energy, the rest is either landfilled or not disposed of properly. This can contribute to environmental degradation in natural habitats both on land and in the oceans. The onus is therefore on industry, governments and civil society to work together on solutions that can harness the full potential of plastics packaging to contribute towards sustainable development.