Flexible Packaging – Environmental Impacts Across the Packaging Life Cycle

Many brands and consumers focus on recyclability or PCR (Post Consumer Resin) packaging when it comes down to sustainable packaging. Recyclability is an important aspect of sustainability, but it is just one of many components. It is important to understand how each life cycle of a packaging impacts the environment and ecological footprint.

Many types of rigid packaging are recyclable, but high material consumptions offset the benefits of recyclability. On the other hand, flexible packaging reduces impacts throughout the packaging life cycle including manufacturing, transportation, storage, and end-of-life disposal

Source: Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), A HOLISTIC VIEW OF THE ROLE OF FLEXIBLE PACKAGING IN A SUSTAINABLE WORLD

 

Manufacturing

Flexible packaging uses up to 90% fewer manufacturing resources than rigid packaging, significantly improving the environment footprint. In the ‘90s, Zacros pioneered the use of refill flexible pouch in Japanese personal and home care products. Now the retail space is close to 80% refill flexible pouches in Japan. While the demand for personal and home care products has doubled in the last 20 years, the plastic consumption of the packaging has seen a decrease of 42%.

 

Transportation and Storage

Lightweight reduces fuel consumption and emissions by optimizing efficiency during transportation. Unfilled glass jars use 26 truckloads in comparison to unfilled flexible pouches, which use only 1 truckload to transport an equal amount of product.1

 

End-of-Life Disposal

Even though rigid packaging is more suitable for recycling, only 30% were actually recycled in 2017 according to the EPA.2 While many countries are trying to improve their waste management infrastructures, flexible packaging is a viable solution for reducing the amount of plastic wastes going to landfills.

Although flexible packaging has its own challenge for recyclability due to its multi-layer construction, more and more monomaterial flexible packaging has been developed around the world and a program like TerraCycle Free Recycling Programs who collaborates with brands to offer a solution for hard-to-recycle packaging.

 

Future of Flexible Packaging

There are many ways to reduce environmental impacts. Many brands are taking a greater initiative toward sustainability. There are many misconceptions about plastic packaging because consumer focus is still on the end-of-life-disposal. Flexible packaging offers sustainability benefits throughout its life cycle and as the flexible packaging industry continues to evolve, there needs to be more education about its value and advantages.

 

Sustainable Packaging with Zacros

Zacros offers customized flexible packaging including monomaterial Cubitainer® and flexible pouch. We reinvent products. Together, we can make differences. To learn more about liquid packaging comparison, download the Choosing Right Liquid Packaging today.

 

 

1. Flexible Packaging Association

2. EPA, Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling