By Leon Kaye,
Earlier this summer in Los Angeles, Greenpeace activists unfurled a cheeky banner from the top of Mattel’s headquarters to denounce the company’s procurement of packaging materials. Testing of boxes in which Barbie dolls were packaged revealed paper fibres traced to deforested regions in Indonesia. Within a week, Mattel had pledged to change its sourcing policy and instruct its suppliers to commit to sustainable packaging. Mattel will learn from other companies that deal with a long and tangled supply chain that sustainable packaging is not only about waste diversion, but also innovation that can boost a firm’s bottom line. Companies that had long competed against each other based on product now joust for an edge based on their products’ packaging, from two-litre soft drinks bottles to laptop computers.
Consumer packaged goods (CPG) and food companies are now quick to tout the advantages that their packaging offers. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, for example, has eliminated that pesky strip from the bottom of plastic bottle caps, reduced bottleneck sizes and will decrease the amount of raw material in its bottles to create what it says will be the lightest 2-litre bottle in the beverage industry. Meanwhile Heinz has adopted the Coca-Cola plant bottle, made out of 30% cane ethanol-based plastic, for a new ketchup bottle. In Japan, a mineral water brand owned by Coca-Cola has introduced a new design that is 40% lighter, uses 30% plant-based material and easily crushes down to a size that makes it easier to transport to recycling centers.
These packaging innovations offer several advantages, among them lighter materials that reduce fuel and water consumption, decreased costs, and increased consumer awareness – which in turn could increase sales. What becomes of that packaging, however, is another story. Will municipalities accept these materials into their recycling waste stream? And will consumers bother to compost that Styrofoam alternative?
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