Companies must look out for green packaging traps

By Guy Montague-Jones and Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Environment

Manufacturers must be wary of the environmental credentials of green packaging materials and avoid using them just for their marketing benefits, says one research group.

Jane Bickerstaffe, director for the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), says that any new developments in packaging should be chosen for potential environmental benefits instead of a ‘green’ tag.

A variety of manufacturers and material suppliers have begun playing up their green commitments in recent years, and packaging is no exception.

Bickerstaffe suggested that while research groups like INCEPN always welcomed developments for new packaging materials, there are some concerns over the use of bio-plastics in bottles.

Problems recycling bio-plastic materials

In some markets, she said retailers and manufacturers were concerned about allowing bio-plastics into some recycling schemes fearing that certain materials could cause disruption because they have to be recycled separately.

Bickerstaffe said certain bio-plastics can be too labour intensive for recycling.

RPC Beauté general manager Gerald Martines also expressed reservations about certain ‘green materials’ at the recent PCD Congress in Paris.

Biodegradable packaging may not be as green as it sounds

Biodegradable and compostable materials are promising innovations but often need to be treated or disposed of correctly in order to be as environmentally friendly as they sound.

Martines told “Using packaging from a biodegradable resource doesn’t make a difference if the resources are not available to process the waste at the end of the product life cycle.”

He said the use of certain so-called green materials without consideration for how they will be treated or disposed of can amount to green washing.

Another concern is that the widespread use of biodegradable packaging may change consumer behavior in undesirable ways. Martines warned of perverse effects such as people not bothering to find a bin and just littering their used bottles because they are biodegradable.

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