Opting for sustainable packaging

Patrick Cullen

Packaging is currently a crucial battlefield for business to overcome in terms of the environmental impacts on the world. Tons of plastics have been produced over the past few decades and according a study published in Science Advances, highlighting that of 8.3 billion metric tons of produced plastic, 6.3 billion metric tons has ended up in landfills or in the environment, seeping into the oceans. The study indicated that if present trends continue, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by 2050.

Tackling the problem of waste calls for a widespread global approach ranging from consumer usage, product design and packaging and naturally recycling strategies. It involves rethinking our institutions and innovating new reusable technologies. Take pallets for example, which play a vital role in global supply chain operations. According to a global market study on pallets conducted by PMR (2017), the market for pallets is expected to grow, with wood pallets dominating the industry but a rising demand for plastic and other non-wood pallets. What are the costs of having these types of pallets? For wood pallets, they have to be treated by heat or toxic chemicals to ensure that infectious bugs or disease are not carried cross continent. The case of chemicals renders them unfit for recycling, but it still may seep into the landfill.

The Australian Company Biofiba specializes in sustainable hemp technologies and offers pallets made from a mixture of natural starches and hemp fibres.  These pallets are naturally treated to eliminate any diseases, can apparently last anywhere from 180 to 400 days and breakdown after disposal. Bringing it back to plastics, which require cellulose to structure its durable characteristics, of which is usually sourced b petroleum. Hemp is the perfect replacement as hemp hurds are approximately 80 procent cellulose and non-toxic. The Austrian company Zellform has created "Hempstone", a hemp-plastic resin used in furniture and musical instruments, but also can be shaped in almost any form which leaves unlimited applications.

Global companies, organizations and consumers now have a major role to play to ensure that methods are environmentally friendly. Lets work together to ensure that shipping and packaging becomes as green as possible.

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