Sustainability of Petroleum-based Packaging Defended

by | Sep 17, 2009

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plastic packagingCompanies should not look with “bane” upon petroleum-based packaging, even as more and more eco-friendly options become available, asserts Sterling Anthony, President of Sterling Anthony Consulting in a guest column at GreenerPackage.

“Any derivative of oil is vulnerable to attacks regarding carbon footprint; however, it doesn’t follow that all such attacks are equally justifiable. Indeed, some of the lambasting of plastic packaging is based on misinformation, misconception, and mischaracterization,” Anthony writes.

Bioplastics and oxo-degradable packaging are suitable for some niche applications, but regular plastic remains the top choice for some consumer products, he writes.

“Given that plastic packaging will remain a mainstay for the foreseeable future, it makes good business sense for supporters to make the case that such packaging is not a bane but a benefit,” he continues.

Anthony contends that plastics, which are produced from naphtha, a byproduct of oil refining, would otherwise be industrial waste if they were not used in packaging.

Still, Anthony advises companies against defending plastics in a way that could be construed as greenwashing.

“The temptation to fudge in one’s own favor should be resisted … There are too many monitors, whether of the official or self-appointed variety, for any type of greenwashing to go undetected. Once credibility is sacrificed, it’s difficult to reclaim,” he writes.

Promoting recycling of plastic packaging is the best policy, he concludes, adding that companies could promote to consumers the role of plastic packaging in sustainability at the point of purchase level.

Companies are finding the PR benefits in reducing their packaging impact.

Abbott is in the process of launching more than 40 sustainable packaging initiatives across its nutrition, pharmaceutical and medical product businesses to help achieve its five percent reduction target in the amount of packaging used in key products by 2013.

In the UK, Nestle has found a way to remove 100 percent of the plastic from its forthcoming Christmas candy packaging.

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