With news out of the World Economic Forum that the use of plastics is expected to double in the next 20 years, it’s to be expected that major economic and environmental organizations would call for ways to use these valuable materials wisely. So I was encouraged to read about the news of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit’s “New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize.” We love celebrating plastics innovation. For me, especially, packaging innovation. It’s never a bad idea to delve deep into smarter packaging design, right? But ideas about plastic packaging and sustainability should include designing for recyclability in addition to other critical elements. Sustainability in manufactured goods is determined by a number of important criteria such as, material efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use, waste and of course, recycling. Optimally – a circular economy doesn’t stop with recyclability, but instead takes a broader view of purpose of use, the associated consequences and the availability of alternatives.
Use of lightweight plastic packaging enables cascading benefits down the value chain, like reducing transportation emissions, extending food life without refrigeration, and delivering snack-size and portioned meals that help prevent food waste. Using plastic, as opposed to alternative materials in consumer goods and packaging, is estimated to keep the environmental costs to nearly four times less than they would be otherwise, according to Trucost.
So we welcome the innovation the EMF New Economy Plastics Innovation Challenge inspires but would love to see it embrace a bigger picture. To learn more about our views on sustainable packaging and the NPE Innovation prize, please see our statement.
Tweet @PlasticPkgFacts. We’d love to hear your thoughts on sustainability and circular economy thinking. Fair warning though, we may share some of your tweets here in a future blog post.