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How the Packaging Industry is Combating Environmental Pollution

Every day trucks go through one town after another, delivering goods to homes and businesses. UPS, FedEx, Amazon, USPS, and others, with packages from around the globe and contents that include everything people and businesses could want or need.

According to Pitney Bowes Shipping Index, there were 131 billion packages delivered across 13 major markets worldwide in 2020. That figure tripled over the past six years, grew 27 percent from 2019, and is expected to double by 2026.

The packaging supplies used for each order vary, but most include a protective pouch or box. In addition to the product(s), boxes usually contain something protecting the product inside, something to keep the contents from shifting during shipment, and tape to keep the box closed during shipment.

These different components vary by company and the product being shipped. While there are many different packaging items to choose from, most fall somewhere between the basic brown box, brown paper to fill empty space, and paper tape to close it, and a four-color printed box, with poly bags protecting the items inside, and plastic pillows, Styrofoam peanuts, or solid foam pieces to protect them, and clear packing tape to seal it.

Why Plastic is the Primary Concern

According to the Supply Chain Solutions Center (SCSC), plastic packaging is a tremendous problem for several reasons. Consumers and businesses alike appreciate the use of plastics in packaging because they are affordable, durable, moldable, lightweight, and decay-resistant. Those traits make it hard to give them up.

The data is hard to ignore, though. Globally, the packaging industry generated 141 million tons of plastic waste in 2015, while the next closest industry was textiles at 42 million tons, according to a graph from the World Economic Forum.

Unfortunately, plastics also leave a significant impact on our landfills and environment, including the oceans, where 8.8 million tons of plastic ended up in 2010 alone. SCSC says, “9.2 billion tons of plastic have been produced, of which only 9 percent has been recycled properly.”

The problem is exacerbated by the labor cost to handle waste, including sorting at a recycling center and dumping it at landfills. Landfills are not only costly, but dumping plastics there takes up limited space, and a byproduct of landfills, which plastic contributes to, is the creation of leachate, contaminated water that has percolated through a landfill and, if a leak occurs, can contaminate nearby drinking water.

There are other concerns as well, including air pollution due to particulates that hang in the air near landfills and gases from waste incineration. Another worry is its effect on the bird population and marine life–over 1 million marine birds are killed by plastic each year, according to One Green Planet.

What Can Be Done?

There are a variety of solutions being used today and more that are being tested or developed. Some of the solutions companies are using include:

  • Reduce use of single-use plastic packaging
  • Use paper instead
  • Design packaging for recycling
  • Design return and reuse packaging
  • Educate consumers about the value of changing to bioplastics (made of biodegradable materials) despite the additional cost
  • Be willing to invest in bioplastic packaging
  • Support the effort to make plastic products 100 percent recyclable
  • Ensure recycling labels on products are clear to consumers
  • Look for ways to reduce the use of all plastic packaging
  • Join other companies who are investing in better recycling infrastructure, such as the Closed Loop Fund.
  • Support innovative ideas and solutions

Let’s Find a Solution Together

One of the biggest things you can do is talk to us at Pinnacle Packaging. We share your concerns for the environment and are committed to helping you find the best way to achieve your environmental and packaging objectives.

This can include finding ways to not only reduce your packaging reliance on plastics but also reimagining the way your products are packaged and how consumers will respond to the changes you make.

This can be an opportunity to not only reduce your reliance on plastics, but also improve your customer’s experience. You could even include a preprinted notecard that talks about your commitment to the environment and includes white space so a team member can handwrite a short note to thank them for their purchase and support of your initiatives.

About Us

Pinnacle Packaging, Inc. offers our customers the best product selection and fast delivery, all at great prices. We are proud to offer over 20,000 quality products from well-known and trusted brands like 3M, Sealed Air, Tape Logic, Rubbermaid, Ivex, and many more. Our mission is to be the single source answer to all our customers’ packaging needs.

Through the years, we have established a reputation with our customers for providing fast, reliable, and professional service. Our high level of responsiveness to our customers’ needs keeps them coming back.