Don’t forget the Waste Hierarchy
In a conversation around lowering the negative environmental impacts of packaging, the waste hierarchy is key. In its essence, the model suggests practices that should be prioritised over disposal, with prevention being the best outcome. This would mean reducing and eliminating all unnecessary packaging, an essential practice to creating a more sustainable system. Next on the hierarchy is preparing for re-use and refill, then recycling and other recovery. Quite simply, if you can’t reuse it then dispose of it correctly, ideally recovering the materials through recycling. If this isn’t possible, other means of recovery should be used, for example incineration for energy generation or composting. Then, as the very last resort, it should go to landfill.
Eliminate single-use packaging, not single-use plastics
Reusable packaging was perhaps the biggest conversation within the event, whether through in store refillable systems or take-back schemes. This then could result in a reduction of raw materials being used over all and could lower the volume of waste being produced. While this could significantly benefit the planet, the common comment alongside this was the importance placed on consumers to change and adapt with the industry. The environmental performance of reusable packaging entirely depends on consumers. The reusable packaging would need to be used in the intended way in order to feel the positive impacts, requiring customer education to reduce loss, breakages or the hoarding of packaging products.