Packaging & The Environment

PREFACE:

In order to resolve or begin to make meaningful changes to a problem, the problem needs to be truly and fully understood.  

Below is a précis of the understanding in addressing the commonly unnecessary degree of use of plastics in FMCG Packaging. 

Change packaging from being a problem to being a solution.

THE CARBON FOOTPRINT PACKAGING STAMPS ACROSS OUR PLANET

Simple profound unpalatable truths:

  • The visible choking cliché of Plastic destroying life (with which we are all familiar with) is simply one symptom of a complex problem in which packaging plays a pivotal part.

  • Recycling plastic; biodegradable plastic; compostable plastic – rather than being a panacea in addressing the problem, are either futile, or will further compound the problem, possibly introducing more destructive aspects, to an already terminal diagnosis.

The only significant solution is to either eliminate plastic, or at least significantly reduce (especially unnecessary) plastic from packaging.

I urge you to invest – as and when you are able – to read on.

The situation of crisis in packaging cannot be overstated, nor over emphasised.

Recycling plastic is a proposed binary (non) solution to a non-binary problem.

There are so many differing types of plastic, and commonly, often combinations of plastics used together to package even the most simple of end-use products.  Even separating them in the waste stream is already impossible.

Additionally, changing the visuals of plastic packaging to appear as realistically as possible to paper or non-plastic and appealing to the ‘feel good factor’ of the consumer is both misleading and counterproductive at best.  In fact, creating an even greater problem.  This also includes marketing tactics where by “metallising” inner or outer wraps to conjure that visual “foil fresh” look for the consumer, consequently reducing the ability to recycle.

It is credibly reported that less than 5% of packaging plastics (while accounting for 50% of all plastic use) are ever recycled.

Neither recycling; biodegradable (https://pelacase.com/blogs/news/5-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-compostable-plastics) nor compostable plastics (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/environmental-impact-of-corn-based-plastics/) are the panacea to the plastic problem.

The highly visible and topical toxic images of plastic pollution we are inundated with are only an underlying symptom and one link in the chain of the FMCG carbon footprint, stamped across our planet.

All plastics are rooted in the petro-chemical processing industry.  An industry processing 99 Million barrels per day, daily choking the planet’s atmosphere.  There are numerous extrapolations which can be made from this figure.  From direct and indirect causes of death via air-pollution, confirmed by WHO (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/air_pollution.htm) – to the effects on global climate change (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/apr/03/south-pole-tree-fossils-indicate-impact-of-climate-change)

The Last time CO2 levels were this high, there were trees at the South Pole and sea levels 20 metres higher than now.

Before speaking directly to most current FMCG packaging, correctly identifying a problem leads to efficient possible remedies, rather than a simplistic cosmetic soothing of symptoms.

The problem is the toxic (and now) prominence given to the visible symptom of the fouling of the planet with (often if not mostly) unneeded plastic – certainly as far as FMCG packaging.

However, the fundamental cause are carbon emissions from fossil fuels.  While plastics are a significant (unnecessary) slice of that emission pie and must be addressed, some critical other issues also need to be addressed. 

 

Fossil Fuels

However, the fundamental cause are carbon emissions from fossil fuels.  While plastics are a significant (unnecessary) slice of that emission pie and must be addressed, some critical other issues also need to be addressed.  The following may seem unrelated to FMCG Packaging, however, they all combine to play a major role in producing the current global CARBON FOOTPRINT.  The pieces of the puzzle are as follows.  For example:

1.Heavy-Duty vehicles:

Comprise only 5% of all road vehicles but, generate 25% of all toxic global emissions from road transport.

(https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health/cars-trucks-air-pollution)

2.Emissions via aircraft:

An inconvenient truth.

Here is an inconvenient reality: a long-distance plane will typically burn though about 100 tonnes of fuel, turning it into almost four times that weight in carbon dioxide. Because of some complex high-altitude effects, the climate change impact of this is perhaps double what it would be if we burned that fuel on the runway.

A single Boeing 747 carries 183,380 litres of fuel in a labyrinth of tanks so large that people can actually walk and crawl inside them.

202,157 aircraft in international flights have filled the skies across the world on a single day:

( https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/flights-sky-map-worldwide-air-traffic-aviation-busiest-day-june-a8428451.html)

 

3.Shipping:

The following are the quantum of vessels burning diesel on our oceans (20106 – thousands of dead weight tonnes and percentage):

So. How do any of the three above generators have a direct effect on the relationship between the toxic visible symptom of plastic and its own relationship with its roots in crude oil?

In a word.

TRANSPORT.

The global transport of packaging materials.

 Raw-materials are dispatched from different points of origin, then, combined and processed vast distances away, into product, only to then be re-routed to a packaging convertor across the world so that they may package their product.  Perhaps at a glance, cheaper.  But, at what real costs. considering the above?

Cost to the planet, our lives, our local industries, local employment, and so the true costs keep ringing up.

ALL plastic is rooted in crude oil refining.

CRUDE OIL IS THE ROOT OF ALL PLASTIC

The World Health Organisation estimates that 4.6 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution.  Many of these mortalities are attributable to indoor air pollution.  Worldwide, more deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to automobile accidents.

Poor Air Quality.  Is as a primary and direct cause of 4.6 Million deaths per year – and many more millions of health disorders annually, it is out of control!

https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/air_pollution.htm

Plastics in Packaging:

Seal Chemistry’s approach is a systematic thorough re-evaluation of packaging design.

Globally, Brand Owners have drifted away steadily (over decades) from their own packaging specifications, which have then largely been left in the hands of other players in the supply chain to conjure up the packaging problems of today.

Towards looking for solutions, Seal Chemistry, through a re-evaluation of packaging design, and product specific, are being assessed by Seal Chemistry to source and establish how Upcycled Packaging™”may be achieved.

“Upcycled Packaging™” is – any packaging which has been re-designed in a qualified and measured way of:

  1. Reducing waste impact and or pollution in any form.
  2. Maintains being totally fit for purpose.
  3. Is economically more viable by way of either, or both, costs, and or reducing the number of production processes and or inventory.
  4. Where possible, has identifiable distinction of being differentiable from the pack, encompassing all the above

There are vast swathes of packaging varying from the ridiculous to the sublime.

It’s all well and good to state, Plastic is Pure Poison and/or People Prefer Paper.

However, there are products where selective uses of plastic are required, if not desired.

In this case, Seal Chemistry are exploring all and any ways of reducing the volume of plastic necessary – for example, on polyboards.  While difficult, this is not impossible.

So, in addition to plastics and their compounding problems, there are a sea of complexities currently in FMCG packaging.

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realise we cannot eat money.”

*Cree Native American saying

Seal Chemistry are in the business of probing and prodding actions, adding urgent impetus to altering packaging from being the negative source of global proportions it currently is, to working towards providing positive global solutions.

“There are three kind of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics, as the truism goes.

 

One can find anything on the internet these days to support or to refute a particular position.

Here is one such contrary position:

German plastic floods Southeast Asia:

Just because the plastic lands in the recycling bin doesn’t mean it will find a new life in another product.  While some is recycled and some is burnt for energy, much of Germany’s plastic trash lands in Southeast Asia.

https://www.dw.com/en/german-plastic-floods-southeast-asia/a-47204773

The smokescreen is plastic itself.  Of course, how and where it is ultimately disposed is a critical piece of the environmental puzzle.  As this graphic clearly illustrates:

For context :
1 million seconds = 11 days.
1 billion  seconds = 31 years.

So to repeat, plastic itself is a critical part of a problem.

The far greater exponential problem lies in the production of plastics.  Any way of reducing plastic production for use impacts upon a far more perilous underlying global problem, that is of petrochemical processing and the emission of the growing toxicity of the Global Carbon Footprint.

Poor Air Quality.  Is as a primary and direct cause of 4.6 Million deaths per year – and many more millions of health disorders annually, it is out of control!

https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/air_pollution.htm

Through “Smart Chemistry for Packaging Design®” Seal are confident substantial reductions of the use of plastics in FMCG goods is realistically and significantly achievable.

 

© Seal Chemistry.

All external credits where due are acknowledged where possible.