Despite the many environmental benefits of flexible packaging, the industry is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to consumers’ perceptions.
Right or wrong, most consumers equate
sustainable packaging with recycling, not with source reduction. Recycling is a
“feel good” act that consumers can do for themselves and the environment. It’s
something they understand, and know how to do.
Source reduction, on the other hand, is
a complex concept that could refer to different things. Perhaps it’s a pouch
that replaces bag-in-box. Perhaps it’s 40-mil film rather than 60. Perhaps it’s
one bulk bag, not multiple single-serve packs.
See what I mean? Try explaining all this
to a consumer in 10 seconds or less as she compares products in the store based
on how environmentally friendly she thinks they are. And, more and more, that’s
exactly what’s happening at the point of purchase. Sustainability, or the
perception of sustainability, is becoming a key factor in her buying decision.
So, how can flexible become the package
of choice with green-conscious consumers?
One answer might be to figure out how to
explain this complex concept as simply as possible to consumers. Let me know
what you come up with. I’m all ears.
Another is to make it easy, or easier,
for consumers to recycle flexible packages. Most flexible packages are
laminations or coextrusions engineered for high performance and don’t carry a
resin identification number. However, many product manufacturers are now
challenging their converters to develop mono-material products that provide the
same or similar performance, to make them recyclable.
Yet a third solution might be a bit more
unconventional, like how TerraCycle (www.terracycle.net) “recycles” used
pouches into pencil cases and backpacks.
Be proactive. Talk with your customers
about post-consumer recycling options. And then, together, help teach consumers
why flexible packaging is a viable choice for the good of the environment. It
could mean more sales of flexible packaging in the future.