There is great interest in finding ways to reduce or even eliminate packaging. This concern is due largely to the public’s perception that much of the packaging they experience is unnecessary and even wasteful.
reality, however, is quite different. An objective, science-based approach
reveals that packaging protects the economic, environmental, and social value
of the products it contains. In fact, effective packaging actually helps
For example, making a salad has historically
required buying a head of lettuce, carrots, etc. These
ingredients, however, must be prepared for serving before the salad can be
eaten. Since we typically don’t eat the entire vegetable, this process produces
waste. (Remember, cleaning also consumes water.)
If instead, we buy bags of ready-to-eat salad, only the edible parts are included. The rest is used for animal feed, keeping it
out of the trash bin and providing additional economic value.
Transporting only the edible ingredients also produces more efficient results
per unit of transportation, helping reduce both fuel consumption and the
related carbon dioxide production. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that the
convenience of pre-packaged salads helps ensure they actually get served, which
also helps reduce food waste.)
Packaging affects the U.S. economy in a variety of positive
ways. It is a significant contributor to employment levels and gross domestic
product (GDP). Its ability to preserve, protect, and educate (via labeling)
helps reduce costs associated with product breakage, contamination, spoilage,
and misuse. Well-designed packaging can also help lower costs by enabling more
efficient use of space during delivery and storage throughout the value chain.
The following examples provide details on just a few economic benefits of
to the United States Census Bureau, over 750,000 people are employed in the
U.S. packaging industry, including:
and industrial goods manufacturers
In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce states that the
economic value of the packaging industry is approximately $200 billion, or
about 2 percent of U.S. GDP.
• Studies by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of Arizona Garbage Project
indicate that 33-50 percent of all food purchased in America is wasted. This
obviously has enormous economic impact on businesses, institutions,
restaurants, and consumers. Based on U.S. Census Bureau estimates that
Americans purchase over $1 trillion worth of food and beverages per year,
wasting 33 percent would result in economic waste of over $300 billion – $1,000
per person, or $2,600 per household.
to help reduce this incredible waste is through the use of packaging that not
only provides proper preparation and use information, but also allows
convenient portion control, measurement, and use. As a result, a little bit
of packaging can help reduce waste and save families a whole lot of money.
The containment, protection, preservation, and education capabilities
of packaging can play major roles in environmental efforts. By reducing the
consumption of raw materials and energy as well as the generation of greenhouse
gas (GHG) and solid waste, packaging helps enable the production and
distribution of more goods with fewer resources. For example:
• Studies by The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report and The
Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN)(1) show
that packaging only accounts for 7-10 percent of the total environmental impact
of a product. By protecting the product, a small amount of packaging
significantly reduces the relatively large amount of environmental (and
economic) waste that can result from product breakage, spoilage, mishandling,
by The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report and The Industry Council for
Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN)(1) show that
packaging only accounts for 7-10 percent of the total environmental impact of a
product. By protecting the product, a small amount of packaging significantly
reduces the relatively large amount of environmental (and economic) waste that
can result from product breakage, spoilage, mishandling, and/or misuse.
recent study indicated that food packaging can significantly reduce GHG
generation by reducing food spoilage and waste. By preventing 10-20 percent of
food loss, it’s estimated that packaging can offer GHG benefits 4-9 times
higher than the GHG emissions associated with packaging production [Source: The
impact of plastics on life cycle energy consumption and GHG emissions in Europe,
Converted to U.S. equivalents, the energy savings that
correlate to this data could annually power the homes, cars, and lives of about
6.8 million Americans [Source: U.S. Census Bureau].
We live in a highly fragmented society with
fast-paced lifestyles that put a strain on our ability to manage our time. As a
result, we’re always looking for simple, convenient ways in which we can
safely, economically, and effectively provide for our families.
Packaging plays a major role in our ability to
meet this need. It ensures that an incredible range of products reach us safely
and in excellent condition. Thanks to its ability to protect its contents,
packaging helps us bring home the most value using the least amount of time,
money, material, energy, and environmental resources. Here are a few examples
of the many social benefits offered by packaging:
America is the nation’s leading hunger-relief charity, supplying 3 billion
pounds of food to 37 million Americans each year. This level of hunger relief
would not be possible without packaging’s ability to provide containment and
protection along with portion control, preparation, and serving information.
ensuring product integrity and reducing the potential for contamination,
packaging helps keep us safe: – Metal
bubble-top lids on baby foods let us know if the product has been opened or has
spoiled, should the lid “pop up.”
seals and closures ensure that medicines reach us in pristine, uncontaminated
communicate important safety and usage information.
envelopes and pouches can be made of special materials that reduce ripping and
tearing while retaining ease of opening.
packaging is the first line of defense against counterfeit products, ensuring
that we receive the high-quality medicines, electronics, household goods, and
clothing we pay for.
reduces theft, helping to keep costs down. (For reference, over $13 billion
worth of goods are stolen each year in the United States. Ultimately, we all
pay for theft through increased retail pricing.)