How Green is your Packaging? (April 2014)

Plastic packaging accounts for 20% of the weight of all packaging and 53% of all goods are packaged in plastics

Packaging is defined as "all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and preservation of goods from the producer to the user or consumer." There are two main categories that packaging is placed into:

Primary - This is the wrapping or containers handled by the consumer

Secondary - This is generally the packaging for larger cases or boxes that are used to group quantities of primary packaged goods for distribution and for display in shops

Plastic packaging accounts for about 20% of the weight of total packaging, of which 53% of all goods are packaged in plastics. Plastic is strong and has a relatively low weight, it is also one of the most energy efficient forms of packaging.

Packaging waste typically takes up about 25-35% of an average dustbin, the volume of waste in the UK is huge:

  • The volume of waste produced in the UK in a single hour is enough to fill the Albert Hall (source: LGB Publications)
  • In one day there would be enough waste to fill Trafalgar Square up to the top of Nelson's Column (source: LGB Publications)
  • In just over a week, we produce enough rubbish to fill Wembley stadium. Over half can be recycled (source: DETR)
  • In one year there would be enough waste to fill dustbins stretching from the Earth to the Moon (source: LGB Publications)

Even though plastics can easily be recycled, there are fewer recycling collection facilities than for other types of packaging waste. Around 23% of plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2001, this is mainly due to the high volume to weight ratio: which can make collections less efficient than the collection of other recyclable materials that weigh more. Plastic also has a high calorific content, which allows energy recovery methods to be utilised efficiently if recycling is not possible.

Another barrier in place for increased plastic recycling is the lack of end-markets for mixed and single stream plastics. Recycled plastics have a variety of uses, including garden furniture, flower pots and containers, fibres and new packaging materials.

Plastics packaging material has received the highest growth rate over the 6-year period 2005-2010, which shows the demand for plastics.

Floreon have developed a bio plastic that can outperform standard PET and PLA, including being 4 time tougher, fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Floreon brings a series of measurable environmental benefits over other plastics and standard PLA’s, including lower energy costs. Floreon requires 62% less energy to produce compared to rival products, which regularly need temperatures of 280-300 degrees centigrade during the manufacturing process. Floreon can be processed at temperatures as low as 160 degrees centigrade.  

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