Gerald Rebitzer, sustainability leader, Amcor, told FoodProductionDaily.com the concept is familiar in many countries but the industry is also pushing for responsible packaging in developing markets.
“Traditionally there has been strong demand for responsible packaging in Europe,” he said. “The best levels are in Germany, the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Austria. Southern European countries still have some work to do - and France is doing a lot right now, and the same is true for the UK.
Asian countries are seeing a huge growth in demand for packaging, and Rebitzer said the concept of responsible packaging is important in these regions too.
“The interest is there. Japan has an excellent recovery and recycling system. In countries like China, Thailand, Indonesia, India – and in general in Asia – it’s really driven by leading packaging companies and brand owners who want to establish similar standards as in Europe.”
But if national governments are not working to the same standard – such as providing the appropriate recycling facilities for packaging – can the industry have any impact? The answer is yes, said Rebitzer.
“Of course recycling is an important aspect, but you have to look at the overall life cycle. You might have packaging that is recyclable, but needs a lot of material up front. The best you can do is minimize the material, and this is something we are continuously working on.
“This is something that’s getting more and more important – responsible and sustainable sourcing – looking at the supply chain. Where does the material come from? What are the social and environmental conditions? How was it produced?”
No one-size-fits-all definition
“Responsible packaging is not clearly defined. It’s a case by case assessment. You need to look at all the aspects and decide that, for this application, this one is the best solution.
“You really need to take a life cycle approach. Consider the production of the material from the oil and gas and the forest, to the manufacturing of the packaging, the use of the packaging, the interaction with the product, and end of life.
“Some packaging is recyclable to a high degree in some regions and not others, so that then determines another aspect of sustainability.”
Reducing food waste
Fabio Peyer, sustainability specialist, Amcor Flexi, will take part in a panel discussion at the Save Food 2014 Congress at Interpack, an event directed at politicians, the food and packaging industry, businesses and researchers.
Save Food is an initiative to address food losses by bringing stakeholders from the food supply chain together to look at developing effective measures.
Packaging has a part to play in reducing food waste, said Rebitzer.
“One of the comments I get is: ‘Isn’t all this just an initiative to promote the packaging industry?’ I think that’s often a misperception.
“You find this misperception in consumer recommendations, even from governments – such as buy large packages for less waste. That may be appropriate in specific cases if you have a big family, but often it’s the other way round. It’s better to buy portion packs or smaller packs [to reduce food waste]."
Packaging can also reduce waste by extending shelf life, he added.
“Some people have the perception packaging is just waste. But it’s about the role of the packaging and what the packaging does.”