Plastic has revolutionized the world in packaging, construction, textiles, transportation, and electronics, but it has encroached on our landfills and is even present in our bloodstreams. But how did such a versatile material become life-threatening to us today?
That’s because the global dependency on plastics has resulted in the exploitation of natural resources and polluted the planet to such levels that it's threatening all life systems.
Plastics have excellent chemical stability, making them indispensable for various industries. However, these can take up to 500 years to disintegrate, thus infiltrating our food chain and wreaking havoc.
The food packaging industry depends heavily on plastic, needing a reliable and cost-effective packaging source. Plastic also offers minimal cross-contamination and food safety for perishable items. However, the chemicals in plastic containers can leach into food and cause congenital disabilities, infertility, and even cancer. Furthermore, plastic packaging waste flowing into water bodies can trap marine animals ⁽⁴⁾.
Today, China utilises 19% of all plastics, followed by the US at 18%⁽¹⁾. However, shockingly, the highest contribution to plastic pollution is from the packaging industry—as it uses the most plastic—having the least in-use lifetime⁽²⁾. Every year, a whopping 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging is produced yearly, whose use and disposal contribute to a carbon footprint of 1.8 billion tonnes of emissions yearly⁽³⁾.
Among all the uses of plastic, the most polluting are single-use plastics, mainly used by the food packaging industry. Food goods in plastic packaging are discarded after usage, making their "in-use lifetime" the shortest of all plastics.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), burning fossil fuels creates two-thirds of greenhouse gases, including CO2, causing a climate emergency⁽⁵⁾. Furthermore, the escalating plastic waste is adding fuel to the fire. The European Union's ban on single-use plastic⁽⁶⁾ and European countries (like the UK, Spain, and Italy) introducing plastic tax are recent responses to the climate crisis by world governments⁽⁷⁾.
Not just governments but a new wave of conscious consumers are reshaping global markets. Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly choosing planet-positive packaging over the rest. About 50% of UK buyers demand sustainable packaging and are willing even to shell out more ⁽⁸⁾. In a recent study conducted by the BCG group, 74% of consumers in the US are happy to pay more for a sustainably packaged product⁽⁹⁾. Accordingly, companies globally must step up to meet the demands for climate-conscious packaging.
Using renewable, recyclable (even plastics), or biodegradable materials (sugarcane, seaweed, corn starch, bamboo) is a way sustainable packaging works to lessen its environmental impact. Sustainable packaging utilises fewer resources to drastically reduce waste and reuses/recycles existing resources to build a circular economy. Such packaging takes the form of molded fiber packaging and even compostable films.
Sustainable packaging is tested for biodegradable or bio-compostable properties (along with its shelf-life). In addition, it is leak-proof, free of toxins, and certified for quality based on international standards.
Brands that incorporate planet-friendly packaging solutions help protect the environment by lowering production waste and have a positive impact. Manufacturing of such low-carbon packaging products is also more efficient, minimizing the environmental footprint. Ultimately, green packaging will boost a company's brand image, profits, and ROI. Customers will perceive companies as ecologically responsible if they employ sustainable resources and adhere to critical compliances impacting people and the planet. The question now lies as to how brands will be able to achieve that.
Enter Cirkla, an end-to-end sustainability solutions provider for conscious brands looking to reduce their plastic footprint. At a time when researching and implementing alternatives to plastic packaging could be frustrating, Cirkla offers its industry expertise, assessing a company's plastic usage and designing customized, sustainable solutions accordingly.
As a brand, we are passionate about the planet and we aim to create a positive difference in the world while also helping businesses make profits. Correspondingly, we design solutions while keeping cognizance of the companies' triple bottom line, compliances, and supply-chain logistics. So our clients can seamlessly transition to sustainable packaging alternatives.
Cirkla's mission is to help businesses reduce their plastic footprint and contribute to a cleaner, healthier planet. Reach out to us for sustainable packaging options and learn how Cirkla can ease your sustainability journey.
Distribution of plastic consumption wordwide by region https://www.statista.com/statistics/1002005/distribution-plastic-consumption-worldwide-by-region/
Our planet is choking on plastic, UNEP, https://www.unep.org/interactives/beat-plastic-pollution/
Plastic Packaging, WRAP, https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/plastic-packaging
Is plastic a threat to your health, Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-plastic-a-threat-to-your-health#:~:text=But%20in%20recent%20years%20more,food%20and%20beverages%20we%20eat.
Facts about climate emergency, https://www.unep.org/facts-about-climate-emergency
Plastic taxes, a European perspective, https://kpmg.com/xx/en/home/insights/2022/11/plastic-taxes-a-european-perspective.html#:~:text=How%20does%20it%20work%3F,non%2Drecycled%20plastic%20packaging%20waste.
Demand for sustainable packaging skyrockets (again) to 81%, https://protega-global.com/2023/01/25/demand-for-sustainable-packaging-sky-rockets-to-64/
New report finds overwhelming majority of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, https://www.environmentalleader.com/2020/04/new-report-finds-overwhelming-majority-of-consumers-are-willing-to-pay-more-for-sustainable-packaging/