Packaging Snippets from Around the World

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The article following is reproduced with the kind permission of our colleagues in the PACKAGING COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA - to view their most interesting website click http://www.pca.org.au/

Towards Sustainable Packaging

Sustainability is a major focus of activity for the Packaging Council of Australia (PCA).

 The Board of the PCA - comprising the leaders of Australia's packaging industry - has approved a statement entitled "Towards Sustainable Packaging" –  Click here  to read 

Climate change, greenhouse gases, water and energy usage are all issues provoking concern about the sustainability of our lifestyles. Sustainability has quickly become a "mainstream" issue. While packaging is not the major focus of the debate, it is inevitably being affected by it.

Climate change, greenhouse gases, water and energy usage are all issues provoking concern about the sustainability of our lifestyles. Sustainability has quickly become a "mainstream" issue. While packaging is not the major focus of the debate, it is inevitably being affected by it.

David Perchard put it well when, in a recent paper he prepared for the PCA, he noted that:

"Prompted largely by a growing realisation that climate change (whatever the causes) is a reality, there has been a sudden growth of interest in sustainability. Our sources of oil and gas are looking increasingly unstable, and this moved resource conservation up the agenda - what happens if (or when) we can no longer obtain enough oil to meet our needs? The conjunction of these concerns has led to a public acceptance that lifestyle issues have to be addressed - which brings us back to the role of packaging in society and whether it needs to be curbed."

The PCA Statement is direct and challenging. It does not amount to "business as usual" and nor is it "window dressing." It reflects the Board's view that such an approach will only inflict damage on the industry and companies in the packaging supply chain. The industry has a solid record of environmental achievement and needs to build on it. The initiatives outlined will, inevitably, take us well beyond the scope of the Covenant. The task ahead is to put "flesh on the bones" of the Statement and deliver real outcomes.

A comprehensive program of actions is being undertaken to implement the Strategy. The major elements are as follows:

(1) Report on "The State of Sustainable Packaging in Australia"

 The aim of this Report is to benchmark the performance of Australian packaging on sustainability, to document the progress made towards sustainable packaging and to compare our performance with international prac

The Report is not intended to be a "whitewash". It will show just how Australian packaging "stacks up" on sustainability. What are our strengths and weaknesses, achievements and failings? Importantly, the Report will produce Australian data, a vital outcome as much of the debate in Australia is still focused on international (particularly European) sources of information which are often misleading in the Australian context.

Issues to be covered in the Report will include:

  • Broad environmental sustainability indicators for packaging - recycling, Design for Environment (DfE), Covenant implementation, indicative emissions, etc.
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  • Packaging indicators in context with other sources (e.g. % of Australia's greenhouse emissions, water consumption, etc.)
  •  International comparisons, particularly with the EU
  •  Life-cycle and greenhouse impacts
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  • Steps businesses and consumers can take to improve packaging sustainability, with packaging options in context
  •  
  • Proposed framework for measuring progress - KPIs, data needs, gaps in information, etc.
  • Key messages for industry and consumers.

Timeline: To be completed and distributed by mid February 2008.

 (2) Examples of Packaging Change and Innovation - The first edition of this booklet, published earlier this year, contained specific examples of packaging changes and innovations, and included images and a short write up of the environmental benefits of the changes. We have received many positive comments about the booklet. We have already had expressions of interest from companies to be included in the next edition. We intend to produce a second edition, later this year with, hopefully, more examples and the practical environmental "savings" as a result of the changes made.

For this second edition, in addition to getting it out to the key decision makers and influencers - Ministers, officials, Opposition figures, journalists etc - we need to also focus on key community groups so that the information gets out to the general public to a greater extent than happened with the first edition.

Timeline: To be completed and distributed by mid November 2007.

(3) Recycling Rates - Later this year we intend to produce and publish an estimate of the recycling rate for Australian packaging for 2006. The recycling details will be by packaging material with estimates of the amount of used packaging exported for recycling.

 The recycling rate for used packaging will again be a significant factor in determining whether the Covenant is renewed. Rightly or wrongly, it is also, for the general public, the key factor in their assessment of the environmental credentials of packaging.

Timeline: To be completed and available in November 2007.

(4) Company Reporting - By and large, Australian company reporting lags behind their counterparts elsewhere. With increased NGO activity and Governments likely to increase their reporting requirements, the demands on Australian companies will increase. They need to be aware of what multinational companies are doing in this area.

   The aim will be to:

  • Regularly produce examples of "best practice" reporting overseas;
  • Produce a template or checklist for companies to assist them in their sustainability reporting on five main priorities:
    » minimise water use
    » more efficient energy use
    » less reliance on fossil fuels
    » optimise resource efficiency
    » minimise waste impacts and optimise recovery of value from waste.

     

Timeline: To be completed and available by April 2008.


(5) Engaging others in the Packaging Supply Chain

We need to engage others in the supply chain on packaging sustainability issues - particularly brandowners and retailers. We need to demonstrate to them the business case for sustainability. More importantly, the decisions they take can have a decisive effect on packaging. If the recent UK and American experience is any guide, we may see Australian retailers seizing the high ground and adopting sustainability initiatives which will impact on packaging may not produce environmental benefits and which could be conflicting and different between the various retailers as they try to gain a competitive advantage on sustainability. We need to be setting the terms of the debate and leading discussion with them on packaging sustainability issues.

To this end, and as a first step, we should hold a major one-day Sustainability Conference to which we would invite CEO's/senior personnel of Australian based brandowners and retailers to speak along with selected overseas speakers from companies who have a leadership role on packaging sustainability.

Timeline: The Conference to be held in May/June 2008

(6) Educational Role

 An important aspect of the PCA's work on Sustainability includes the continuation of the educational focus of the last two years. This has been successful beyond my expectations. The feedback has been extremely positive largely, I believe, because we have insisted on producing balanced, factual material devoid of "packaging propaganda"

While successful, it would be naïve to assume that we are yet significantly changing long-held attitudes amongst many in the teaching community and amongst students. But a start has been made and the indications are that we can change views and that teachers are receptive to quality, balanced teaching material on packaging.

We intend to extend the Schools package design competition (which was trialled in Qld this year) to a national competition next year.

Timeline: Continuing

(7) Engaging the General Community

In many of the above proposals there is an implicit recognition of the need to communicate with the general community. We need to make this explicit. We need to engage and participate in the community debate and discussion to a much greater extent than has occurred previously.

By early next year, if the Board accepts the above proposals, we will have an impressive suite of materials addressing the Sustainability issue - a report on the state of sustainable packaging in Australia; a second edition of the "Real Changes" brochure; up-to-date recycling rate figures; educational materials for primary and secondary schools and our continuing involvement at the tertiary educational level with the Southern Cross Awards; as well as our efforts with companies through the industry awards to promote and foster sustainability. In short, we have a good set of tools to substantiate our sustainability credentials.

We should be participating regularly in public forums and exhibitions on Sustainability. As a first step, I would recommend that we participate in the Sustainable Living Festival to be held at

Federation Square
in Melbourne from 15-17 February 2008. It is highly regarded, and attracts a large attendance not just of "greenies and ferals" but "a lot of suits".

Federation Square

in Melbourne from 15-17 February 2008. It is highly regarded, and attracts a large attendance not just of "greenies and ferals" but "a lot of suits".

 Timeline - Commencing in early 2008.

If you wish to discuss matters concerning packaging and sustainability, please do not hesitate to contact the CEO Gavin Williams on T: 03 9690 1955 or E: info@pca.org.au