Lightweight Packaging

Is Your Packaging a “Lightweight” in Sustainability?

feather-1-300x300 Lightweight PackagingDoes smaller, lightweight packaging equal a more earth-friendly choice?

Many companies are moving toward being leaders in their industries in the area of sustainability from internal practices to sourcing their packaging.  Not only can this lead to efficiencies and elimination of waste but it is meaningful to consumers. Many choose Lightweight Packaging as a strategy for lowering their carbon footprint.

According to the American Marketing Association, Millennials factor in whether a company supports what is important to them when they are making a purchase. They make up more than 25% of the buying public. They want to be assured that their purchases will be compatible with their concerns for health and the environment.

With authenticity being at the top of what they want from businesses, they want to be able to trust what a business is telling them on their labels, website and social media. With so many claims of “better for you” and “earth-friendly”, what can they really believe? They are understandably skeptical.

Some lightweight packaging with limited life-cycles, with the first or second life being the last, claim to be more earth-friendly because they requiring less fossil fuel to move them from place to place. There are pitfalls to this “lightweighting” argument.

According to an article in Packaging Digest, “Lightweighted packaging configurations are often marketed to consumers as being more affordable, more convenient and making less of an environmental impact by taking up less volume. However, the trade-off of a lighter package is often one that is neither reusable nor recyclable, destined for landfill or incineration and the inevitable pollution of our natural ecosystems.” Read the full article “Solving the problems of lightweighting in consumer product packaging” by Tom Szaky.

Our grandmothers used glass bottles, steel cans, aluminum containers and fewer disposables.  The local dairy would pick up the empty glass milk bottles and replace them with filled. It is hard to get more earth-friendly than that!  This was long-lasting, durable and reusable packaging.  Today’s consumers demand packaging that is convenient and inexpensive. That often means disposable but not necessarily recyclable.

The article goes on to say, “The biggest problem with lightweighted packaging is that producers and manufacturers of these items have not designed end-of-life solutions into their packaging innovations.”

Metal products made from steel and aluminum, when not combined with other materials, need no end-of-life planning.  They are the “heavyweights” when it comes to sustainability because they can be recycled infinitely without loss of quality.  In fact, cans today are 33% lighter in weight than they were 20 years ago and recycled cans can be back on the shelf  within 6 weeks from first use – as a can or in a new life as another metal product! (Reference,Why Metal by the Ardagh Group)