Is it possible to create a 100% Recyclable Packaging?
The oceans receive about 8 million tons of garbage each year. At the same time, knowledge about climate change and the impact (positive and negative) that we generate on the environment has made both companies and individuals worry and occupy themselves with how to reduce the damage they cause to our planet.
As we mentioned in the previous article, sustainability and organic are a trend in the Pet Food Industry (and in general, too!). Therefore, in this article we bring you the information you need about packaging and packaging of pet food and sustainability.
Is it possible to make a 100% biodegradable wrap / package? Is it economically affordable? What obstacles exist today to achieve it? Will the demand for my products increase? Worth it? We will tell you about it in this article.
All of us who are participants in this industry have a role and a responsibility to implement actions to reduce waste, reuse and recycle materials and products, to the extent that our business allows it, to create a more sustainable chain.
The increased awareness and involvement of pet owners regarding sustainability and caring for the environment forces the pet food packaging industry to look for more ecological alternatives.
What do the referring voices say?
Latricia Fry, from Constantia Flexibles, one of the most important flexible packaging companies, affirms that in North America there are already companies that promise to be 100% recyclable or sustainable by 2022 or 2025, and that, consequently, the company she represents has noticed an exponential increase in the order for more sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging.
Sean Riley, from the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI), says that pressure and the social demand for more sustainable pet food have led packaging manufacturers to seek options to reduce waste from their production chain and packages. Similarly, it ensures that consumption is leaning towards companies that use good production practices for the environment.
Likewise, the research firm Mintel underlines the importance of packaging in the sustainable life cycle of a product, which is why, like food, they should incorporate bio-based materials and increase the incentive to recycle said packaging.
How does this sector of the industry receive sustainability?
The global reality is that sustainability involves costly and highly innovative processes, and even so, if implemented, there would continue to be cons in terms of the environmental footprint.
In addition, companies participating in the pet food production chain have to analyze the impact from several angles; Regarding packaging, they would also have to improve the packages used in the logistics of shipping and distribution of products, trying to choose cardboard boxes and avoid plastic or plastic wrap or covers.
What are the main obstacles within the industry?
As we already told you, one of the main obstacles in the implementation of more sustainable materials and chains is the cost involved in the implementation of new processes that adapt to the standards of caring for the environment. The second major challenge for producers and manufacturers is the need to find packaging that is safe to maintain the quality and condition of different types of food and candy, and that, in turn, is more sustainable.
What solutions are being considered in the medium term?
The pioneering companies in implementing more sustainable systems and materials (located mainly in the United States) have begun to develop and implement several alternatives:
- Some choose to replace polyethylene plastic (made from fossil fuels like oil or natural gas) with green polyethylene - a bio-based plastic made from Brazilian sugar cane. The use of this polyethylene has an extra advantage: the cultivation of this sugar cane uses carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing its carbon footprint.
- Another alternative towards sustainability is the generation of flexible packaging that is 100% recyclable in pinch, folding and flat bottom formats.
- The Constantia Flexibles company has developed an aluminum packaging system with a water-based coating that eliminates the emission of volatile organic compounds. In this way, they would be recyclable in the aluminum recycling chain.
How does the context influence the sustainability of the industry?
While it is true that each sector and industry must rethink itself in terms of the footprint and negative impact it generates on the environment, it is also undeniable to affirm that any change and transformation that is implemented impacts and depends on other sectors and / or or related industries.
With regard to recycling, the key, beyond the pet food packaging manufacturers' improvement intentions, is how local municipalities manage and report on their own recycling chain. Another challenge to create a sustainable system within which packaging can be recycled to a circle of economy and profitability: there must be someone willing to buy the material to use it to make new products.
Currently, in Latin America, only 14% of the population has recycling habits. Within the formal and corporate sector, only 2.2% of companies recycle products and materials. Also, most of the few people who recycle say they do not have recycling points or containers for recyclables near their home.
These numbers, unfortunately, only demotivate and dismiss the idea of investing in research and machinery to develop more sustainable packages. The most effective solution for the current situation in our country is to educate. Below, we tell you why.
What can be done right now?
Currently, there are two solutions that are positioned as the preferred among producers; even so, they are still far from perfect:
One option is to develop a reusable and refillable container or container. It would be truly sustainable in a circular recycling economy, in which recycled items are reused and recycled over and over again. Its main disadvantage is that, in the short term, it is a rather expensive implementation and the infrastructure and machinery that is used mostly today is not capable of doing it.
The second option is to design post-consumer polyethylene recycling programs. However, the challenges of a new adapted packaging design and the fact that it perpetuates the use of plastics demotivate companies.
But not everything is negative. There are some actions that can be implemented now, and can lead the way to a more sustainable industry and packaging.
So what can be done TODAY for a more sustainable packaging?
There are some good practices that can be implemented in our current situation and context to the production chain of packaging for pet food, among them:
- Increase the recycled content used in the production of packaging and packaging.
- Use larger containers and boost bulk purchasing to reduce waste and garbage.
- Prioritize packaging made, to a greater extent, of cardboard, and secondly, of aluminum.
- Carry out communication and awareness campaigns about the importance of recycling and how it should be done.
This last point is essential: when it comes to recyclable packaging (or any object), education is key. People need information and resources on how to recycle and why it is so important to do so, as well as everything that goes into achieving more sustainable packaging.
Manufacturers of packaging for pet food that seek to walk the path to sustainability should focus on communicating it through the labels of their products, as well as through their social networks and web pages.
Recyclable packaging seems to be a great solution to reduce the negative impact of the pet food industry, but it requires a joint effort by the sector and the corresponding municipalities. For sure, starting a strategic communication and dissemination plan is a good alternative for all companies in the industry that want to start this transformation but do not yet have the necessary infrastructure or investment to materialize it in all their products.
Tell us what is your point of view in relation to this, we are interested in knowing it!
Author: All Extruded