When my package from a well known online shopping site arrived I thought, “I’m sure I didn’t order that much!” and I was right, I didn’t. The small item I’d ordered was lost among the reams of brown packing paper and in a box big enough to fit my 2 year old in!
At this point, it occurred to me – how much packaging do we waste? I’m pretty sure that this particular shopping site is keeping the recycling companies in business, but is it necessary? I’m not saying that packaging isn’t essential, of course it is, but why do some companies insist on wasting so much?
Last year we threw away a staggering 23.2 million tonnes of household waste, 10 million tonnes of which was pure packaging (www.defra.gov.uk). In 2010 DEFRA issued its 10 year strategy to reduce packaging waste and make it easier for households and businesses to recycle. Some strict regulations are already in place for the food industry, which has seen many brands come up with new ideas in which to package their products; milk in plastic refill bags for instance. There will come a point where all companies have to follow similar guidelines to this, so what will the impact be on the print and packaging sectors?
I often stop to think about the journey packaging has taken over the years; since the launch of the humble Tetra Pak back in the 1950’s (a packaging solution which required the bare minimum of materials, whilst maintaining the hygiene and durability standards we expect) we’ve seen packaging take many forms, whether it be moulded plastics, PET bottles or aluminium cans and now we seem to have come full circle as we try and get back to basics. Not forgetting that we’ve always found new ways to decorate whatever material the packs are made from, in order to promote the products they house.
There’s no doubt that packaging is big business and this is great for the industries we know and love, but as we all strive to become more environmentally friendly and as companies re-evaluate their environmental targets, what advances are we going to see that will keep these sectors alive and satisfy end users like me that there isn’t as much waste going to recycling or worse, landfill? I’m certainly hoping that 2013 will throw up some interesting ideas, as I keep my beady eyes open for ways to make sure that my love of internet shopping isn’t compromised by wasteful outsize packaging. I’m looking forward to my orders being delivered to me in packages appropriate to the size of the goodies inside!