The future of packaging
Opinion: Sharon Humphreys, executive director, Packaging Council of New Zealand
Packaging, which surrounds almost every consumer product, is in the hands of consumers fleetingly. But, in the moment before you dispose of it, think about the journey it took to create, make and apply that packaging… and how you will dispose of it.
That’s exactly what our designers, brand owners and manufacturers do every day - from start of the product’s life to the end - they have to balance what resources are used in manufacturing while ensuring the packaging is fit for its purpose and ultimately they consider how it will be disposed.
Here in New Zealand we have been working to lead the way in ensuring the packaging sector plays its role in sustainability. That is where The Packaging Council of New Zealand (PAC.NZ) fits in. It represents companies operating across the packaging supply chain, with members contributing approximately $20 billion to the economy.
The Council and its members advocate for a lifecycle approach to packaging and start with the fundamental principle that good packaging design prevents more waste than it creates. A lifecycle approach optimises the overall environmental impact of packaging and the Packaging Council has been at the forefront of promoting and educating on the role of packaging and how it contributes to a sustainable society balancing the three pillars of planet, profit and community.
Recycling remains Kiwis’ tangible contribution to preserving and protecting the clean, green image of New Zealand. With over 90 per cent of Kiwis having access to either kerbside or drop-off recycling facilities we have wide-spread, mature collection facilities for post-consumer packaging material. PAC.NZ members are committed to providing innovative solutions to maximise the collection of post-consumer packaging materials.
Alto Packaging – behind the new Foodstuffs meat tray, Miltek (waste compactors and balers) and Flight Plastics (producing recycled plastic food-grade packaging) are all taking leadership positions on solutions to the issue of packaging waste by redesigning products to fit with existing recycling operations, or making recovery easier and cost-effective for business through baling solutions and creating markets for recovered packaging materials and using these products for new packaging material.
Functionality is the key criteria in all packaging design. Consider the demands we consumers place on the packaged goods industry today. We expect access to global merchandise and no matter how far-flung the origin of the product, and no matter the time and distance in transit, we nevertheless expect it to arrive to us in perfect condition. We require food and beverage products to provide us with choices to suit our tastes, our beliefs, our lifestyles and our health. We further expect value-add such as convenience formats for preparation, usage, portion control, safety features, closure features, anti-tamper evidence, theft deterrent.
Without compromising on the functions and expectations of the packaging there is a growing call to meet these demands within the parameters of a circular economy. The Packaging Council has members leading the way in providing circular solutions.
It is in the area of science and R&D where the stepchanges in packaging will come. Already we are seeing advances in technology, and innovation in packaging design that are enabling development of new packaging materials which address the concerns voiced by society for alternatives to traditional fossil fuel based packaging materials. The Packaging Council benefits from the strong science focus provided from Scion, who sits on the Executive Board, and partnerships such as Auckland University’s Biocide Toolbox Programme. The future of packaging is exciting and, in New Zealand, where there has always existed a strong innovation spirit, we are seeing our scientific institutions rise to the challenges of producing advanced materials to meet the needs of tomorrow’s society.
These stories provide a small snapshot of the work of the Packaging Council members. Members who are committed to New Zealand Inc. economically, socially and environmentally. To find out more on what our members are doing, or to find ways to make your business more sustainable contact us on 09 271 4044, www.packaging.org.nz, Twitter @PACNZinc