We said it, and it’s true. For specific applications, flexible packaging beats alternative packaging for sustainability hands down. Now you might think that since most flexible packaging is plastic that it doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to environmental friendliness. But we need to look at the sustainable attributes of flexible packaging over the entire lifecycle of the format.
Here are some benefits:
- Flexible packaging is lighter than other formats and requires less raw materials to fabricate. This translates to conservation of resources and reductions in emissions and water usage in production.
- Due to lighter weight and the reduction in space required for inbound transport, there are benefits in fuel savings and reduction of transport emissions because fewer trips are required to deliver the same number of units compared to rigid formats
- There is a proportional reduction of materials going to landfill: For purposes of comparison, let’s imagine a worst-case scenario where the same number of flexible packages and plastic HDPE containers were sent to a landfill. There would be significantly less material sent to landfill on the flexible packaging side due to the format’s high “product-to-packaging” ratio.
Let’s explore this product-to-packaging ratio a little further (and well refer to it as P2P ratio for brevity’s sake!). According to the U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy, the most preferred method of waste management is reducing the amount of ‘potential’ waste on the front end. A format with a relatively higher P2P ratio is more efficient than a format with a lower P2P score. Here’s an illustration of the concept:
You can see the flexible packaging format is much more efficient that the HDPE and steel can formats. Let’s see how this translates to materials that wind up in a landfill:
The P2P ratio is just one comparison where flexible packaging beats other packaging formats for end-of-life sustainability benefits. And again, the comparisons above are assuming all three formats are destined for landfills, which would be the worst case. Many recyclable flexible packaging materials are coming online, and these will help make flexible packaging even more of a sustainable champion going forward.
AWT is continually engaging our flexible packaging material suppliers to learn about the latest in recyclable stocks and total material reduction options. If you’d like to learn more about the sustainable benefits of flexible packaging, or if you have any other labeling or packaging questions, we’d welcome an opportunity to help.