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FLEXO Magazine : Sustainable Fall 2010
scenarios under which product losses occur rises, until even- tually a point is reached where the increase in product loss exceeds the savings from the use of less packaging material. Any reduction in packaging beyond that point is a false ben- efit, since it increases the total amount of waste in the system. Consumers generally only see the primary product pack- aging, that being the packaging of the product that they pick up at the shelf. Secondary and tertiary packaging, used for grouping and transporting products, also play an important role in both function and impact. Well-designed packaging will meet the requirements of the product while minimizing the economic, social and environmental impacts. Protection • Prevent breakage (mechanical protection) • Prevent spoilage (barrier to moisture, gases, light, flavours and aromas) • Prevent contamination, tampering and theft • Increase shelf life Promotion • Description of product • List of ingredients • Product features & benefits • Promotional messages and branding Information • Product identification • Product preparation and usage • Nutritional and storage data • Safety warnings • Contact information • Opening instructions • End of life management Convenience • Product preparation and serving • Product storage • Portioning Unitization • Provision of consumer units • Provision of retail and transport units Handling • Transport from producer to retailer • Point of sale display In viewing how packaging can contribute to improving sustainability there are some key principles that always need to be considered: • Packaging makes a valuable contribution to economic, environmental and social sustainability through protect- ing products, preventing waste, enabling efficient busi- ness conduct. • It also provides consumers with easier purchasing decisions and, of course, the benefits of the products it contains. • The fundamental role of packaging is to deliver the prod- uct to the consumer in perfect condition. • Attempts to reduce packaging impacts should only be pursued if they maintain or reduce the impacts of the packed product. • Because of its role in protecting the product, packaging can only be properly evaluated as part of a complete product lifecycle. • Optimal performance is achieved when product and packaging are designed together from conception. • Packaging design also needs to factor in the post-con- sumption disposal opportunities available in the local market. • There is no such thing as a fundamentally good or bad packaging material: all materials have properties that may present advantages or disadvantages depending on the context within which they are used. Products generally represent far greater resources and have a much higher inherent value than the packaging used to protect them. Thus, product losses due to underperforming packaging are likely to cause much greater adverse effects on the environment than the gains made through excessive packaging reduction. However, it is also true that, across the consumer goods industry, there are opportunities to optimize packaging and so increase its contribution to the overall sustainability of the packaged product. To positively contribute to the sustainabil- ity of a product, packaging should increasingly be: • Designed holistically with the product in order to optimize overall environmental performance. • Made from responsibly sourced materials. • Manufactured using clean production technologies. • Efficiently recoverable after use. • Sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy. In addition the packaging will need to: • Meet consumer choice and expectations. • Be beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and com- munities throughout its lifecycle. • Meet market criteria for performance and cost. When these principles are respected, the impact of pack- aging is minimized and the benefits maximized. THE MEASUREMENT SYSTEM The comprehensive indicators and metrics laid out herein consider packaging in the context of the packed product and account for the complete packaging system. They can be used by all members of a packaging supply chain (although not all indicators and metrics are relevant for all organiza- tions or all types of packaging and associated supply chain functions). The measurement system covers the complete packaging lifecycle, clearly defines terminology, addresses the need to establish goals and sets the measurement boundary and scope, offers a common approach to enable members of a supply chain to measure the same packaging attributes and normalize the data in the same way. The measurement system developed for this project is based on the use of indicators and metrics. An indicator is used as a proxy for an issue or characteristic an organization wants to measure. An indicator describes a concept and can express movement---whether positive or negative---toward a goal. Generally, an indicator focuses on a piece of a system that can provide a sense of the bigger picture. For example, the indicator "small business survival rate" provides informa- tion about the overall economic health of a region. A metric is the method used to express an indicator. Met- rics are often computational or quantitative, but can also be a qualitative assessment. Metrics are typically expressed as a numerator and a denominator, i.e., "A per B." For example, a metric to quantify the indicator " virgin material content" could be expressed as "X percent of total virgin material used per tons of packaging component." Sustainable FLEXO FALL 2010 www.flexomag.com