Plastics and packaging

 

Plastic packaging often has a negative image. Yet, intelligently designed packaging helps to reduce emissions and waste right from the start. We believe it is important to take a differentiated and critical approach to the topic of "plastic and packaging". Packaging fulfills essential tasks: it protects the contents, enables safe transport and extends the shelf life of food. The demands placed on a packaging solution vary depending on the intended use. However, two aspects are paramount: the conservation of resources and the reduction of greenhouse gases. Through efficient production, sensible use and circular recycling processes, plastic packaging helps to reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

There are many arguments in favor of plastics as a packaging material. Plastics are comparatively inexpensive, easy to shape, lightweight, resilient, robust, resistant and, of course, recyclable. These special features create advantages, from production and transportation to use and recycling. The diverse material properties enable products of different designs – whether for food packaging (such as bottles, trays, cups, bags) or industrial packaging (such as woven sacks, block bottom valve sacks, big bags). Due to the low weight of plastic packaging, significantly less energy is consumed during transportation compared to other packaging materials such as glass (glass bottles) or wood (wooden crates), thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, plastics are relatively resilient. For example, a big bag (FIBC) has a filling weight of up to 1,500 kg of bulk material with a tare weight of just 2.5 kg! "Plastics are indestructible" – a frequently used phrase and an advantageous property. Plastic packaging does not break like glass, and it does not disintegrate like wet paper. Packaging contents are thus comprehensively protected, their shelf life extended, and consequently the consumption of resources is minimized. Last but not least, plastics can also be mechanically recycled very efficiently, meaning that the material can be sensibly reused and repurposed. Instead of waste, we call it a valuable resource – an "input material" for the recycling process. After the used packaging has been collected, sorted and reprocessed through mechanical recycling, the recycled plastics are used again.

"Design for recycling" - doing it "right" from the start. Despite its great potential, the recycling of plastics is not a simple panacea for designing and using packaging sustainably. In order to produce high-quality materials from packaging after its use, appropriate aspects must be taken into account during its development. These include, for example, the choice of material, printing and labeling, the avoidance of composite materials, the economical use of materials and a number of other considerations. This includes "design for recycling", i.e. the recycling-friendly design of the original product. Packaging manufacturers have a responsibility to follow the basic requirements. However, private individuals can also make their contribution through proper collection and separation.