Sustainable Packaging on World Environment Day

With all the talk about 'environmental' packaging, do you really feel informed to make a decision?

World Environment Day
World Environment Day is celebrated on the 5th of June and is the United Nation's way of encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

Mixed messaging has caused widespread confusion about environmentally friendly packaging, with misconceptions circulating about certain materials, without much effort to quantify these claims.

We all know that the No 1 enemy in packaging is plastic, right? Most of us would assume that an aluminium can would leave a smaller environmental footprint than a plastic bottle? It all depends on the recycled content of the material. Virgin aluminium takes far more electricity to manufacture than recycled plastic. If you then look at recycled aluminium, this then uses lower energy processing outputs than recycled plastic. No wonder we are all confused!

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What is eco friendly?

A dictionary definition simply says eco friendly is "not harmful to the environment", but what does this mean? Those who specialise in sustainability say it is a trade-off between carbon footprint, water usage and waste production. But for those of us who aren't material scientists, how can we understand these factors to help influence our decisions?

We are transparent when it comes to our packaging specifications and advise whether a product is recyclable, sustainable, biodegradable or compostable. We know many of you avoid our vac trays as they are made from plastic, choosing instead to go for the gold cardboard divider, but are these better for the environment?

  • Our Vacuum formed trays are made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) This is the most recyclable plastic in the world and also contains at least 60% recycled content. For every tonne of rPET produced, 1.5 tonnes of CO2 is saved (source: BPF)
  • Our gold cardboard dividers might seem the better option because they are cardboard right? Wrong! The special metallic film coating means that they are not recyclable at all.

We know that 'anti plastic' consumer pressure leads a lot of customers to opt for the cardboard divider without easily being able to communicate that this is actually less recyclable than the plastic trays.

What is needed is much more education around packaging misconceptions, such as 'plastic is the enemy', without understanding the facts about the alternatives. We have put together a guide on common recycling logos and what they mean when you spot them next to products in our brochure. If you are looking to further educate yourself then check out WRAP 

Guide to recycling logos

What does the future hold?

Emilien Hoet, head of ClimatePartner UKA, has called for labelling that not only tells us what a product contains, but also what it costs the planet to make it. Whilst packaging forms a huge part of this focus, what is overlooked is the material and energy used to make the product itself. Packaging is the part that consumers see most and focus on.

If your business wants to make the switch to a greener operation then contact us about our FSC® certified packaging or to switch over to using recyclable materials. You can view our stock eco range here to find environmental packaging alternatives for your products.

Here at Meridian, we will continue to be open and upfront about our packaging environment credentials. We remain committed to developing more recyclable / biodegradable packaging to help with the global environmental effort. Plastics are our main effort and a lot is going on behind the scenes to develop more sustainable plastic packaging options. Our plan is to be ready well in advance of the Governments tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic in 2022.

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