Packaging is an essential part of modern life allowing people to consume fresh, uncontaminated food and beverages wherever they want in the quantities needed. Modern living has driven the desire for convenience foods in ready-to-prepare and single-serve formats, where pre-preparation ultimately reduces the possible amount of solid food waste generated by households.
Just pause to consider how a modern large retailer would look like without packaging. Packaging allows the contents to be preserved and has resulted in the emergence of everyday products that could not exist without packaging, like carbonated soft drinks, long life milk, ready meals and household chemicals. And, without a good packaging system, consumers could not be confident that delicate electronic products such as a computer or televisions will work as soon as they are out of the box.
The production of packaging, like the production of any product, involves the consumption of raw materials, energy and water, and results in emissions to air, soil and water.
In developed countries, packaging accounts for around 3% of the waste sent to landfill, whether measured by weight or by volume; in SA, packaging is perhaps 6%.
Obviously, the use of more (or more efficient) packaging would significantly reduce these wastage rates.
Meanwhile, the packaging sector is constantly improving its environmental profile:
Once it has performed its function packaging takes on an entirely different face. It becomes cumbersome waste.
Sub-sectors of the packaging Industry have voluntarily exercised their extended producer responsibilities forming a variety of organisations dedicated to increasing the collection and recycling of their products. In every case we have created a value for this waste so it is now effectively a resource. It is important we consider the impact of packaging on the waste stream:
As a nation we are undisciplined litterers and this is a major cause of the unwanted and ugly perception people have of packaging. If we can stop littering we will have made a major move towards cleaning up our country.