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Earth Day Battle: Packaging vs The Environment

Earth Day Battle: Packaging vs The Environment

This is the week we celebrate Earth Day. Each year there is plenty to talk about besides global warming, although in this case the packaging lids are doing the talking. This from Stonyfield Farms-On April 22, the 36th Earth Day will be celebrated around the world.

We’re excited about it here because the Virtual Global March on Washington will conclude. ([http://www.stonyfield.com/Lids/Lid_Oct2005.cfm])

Many detractors of the packaging industry get charged up during this period with claims on what packaging is doing to the environment and sustainability. Even chocolate packaging is under fire…The relaunch of a popular chocolate brand owned by Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, is causing concern in environmentally conscious circles in Switzerland. Under attack is the decision to package chocolate in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the plastic resin commonly used to bottle drinks. To read more go to http://www.swissinfo.org/eng/front/detail/Chocolate_packaging_comes_under_fire.html?siteSect=105&sid=6630993&cKey=1145028194000

Sure some of that is true and, yes, the landfills are full of packaging materials, but the many companies in the industry are doing something about it. Remember in October when I mentioned this headline:”Wal-Mart Rocks Packaging World with Corn Based Packaging Order.” If Wal-Mart becomes an early adapter, the rest of the world will soon follow suit. Any oil and natural gas-based plastics packaging suppliers will be scrambling to keep their business. Well, that moment is now. I’m getting dozens of releases weekly on new packaging materials that have a claim on supporting the environment. Keep on the lookout for packaging innovations using the words biobased or bioresins.

I did some quick research and was surprised to find this example that may not be all that well known: “Eggland’s Best shares your concern about the environment. They pay careful consideration to their packaging choices, and only after in-depth study did they decide to package Eggland’s Best eggs in polystyrene foam packaging. They made this decision not only for its superior protection and merchandising of our eggs, but also for the overall environmental impact of polystyrene vs. pulp paper cartons.” FYI, I love Egglands eggs.

This revelation points to the fact that the answer to supporting the environment may not be all that simple. After all, package manufacturing is a complex equation anyway so adding the “environment” to the mix just requires a little more thought.

Well known brands are jumping on the environmental bandwagon with interesting marketing campaigns. Earlier this year The Timberland Company today announced a footwear packaging initiative that reduces Timberland’s environmental impact and provides consumers with new information to help guide them in the purchase process. The initiative, the first of its kind in the retail industry, will be seen in stores in 2006. Most notably, Timberland will place a “nutritional label” on each box that will educate consumers about the product they are purchasing, including where it was manufactured, how it was produced, and its effect on the environment.

Highlights of the packaging initiative include:

• The “nutritional label” that will inform consumers about
Timberland’s environmental and community impact.

• Footwear boxes made of 100 percent recycled post-consumer waste fiber.

• Footwear boxes using no chemical glues and only soy-based inks to print labels.

• Messaging inside the box that asks consumers “What kind of
footprint will you leave?” and provides a call to action for them after purchase.

When Del Monte launched its line of fresh-cut fruit in Natureworks PLA packaging in 2004, it was one of the first brands in the category to make the switch to a compostable material and it continues to expand the brand.

NatureWorks LLC is probably the most highly publicized brand at present: “Dedicated to meeting the world’s needs today without compromising the earth’s ability to meet the needs of tomorrow, NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer a family of commercially available greenhouse-gas-neutral polymers derived from 100 percent annually renewable resources with cost and performance that compete with petroleum-based packaging materials and fibers. For more information about NatureWorks and its brands, visit http://www.natureworksllc.com/

You might remember from reading “What’s In Your Bottle?” BIOTA is changing the face of the beverage industry with its bottle. This revolutionary new plastic, developed by NatureWorks LLC,is derived from a 100 percent renewable resource, corn. BIOTA bottles disappear in approximately 80 days in a commercial composting environment. All other soda and water beverages are packaged in petroleum-based bottles, which will never degrade under similar composting conditions.

Some educational materials are using packaging as a learning example and teaching students about “green” packaging too. They show students that they can affect the Earth with the decisions they make at retail stores. It instructs them to bring in objects still in their packages to discuss whether each package is environmentally friendly or not with the class. The campaign includes a reward for the class, Smarties® Celebrate Earth Day Every Day Treat Packs which mention reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Whatever your product, it is vital to realize that environmental issues are here to stay. It’s imperative to stay on top of packaging trends that are driving the way consumers shop and buy.