Beware the unintended consequences - knee-jerk bans need to yield to holistic thinking
The design of packaging is complex and the choice of packaging material must always focus on the need to protect and preserve the products that it designed for, writes Dick Searle from the Packaging Federation.
The design of packaging is complex and the choice of packaging material must always focus on the need to protect and preserve the products that it designed for. No one packaging material has a monopoly of virtues and “fitness for purpose” is essential if waste product is to be avoided and net environmental impact is to be minimised. The design and choice of packaging is discussed in INCPEN’s “Why Products Are Packaged The Way They Are”. Whilst this was produced 9 years ago, the principles it explains are entirely valid today.
Packaging has lately taken the lion’s share of the scapegoating for our consumerism, littering and throwaway society even though it is fulfilling its role of acting as a delivery system for the products that society demands. There have been many calls for bans and interventions but these do not always, and ultimately, serve their intended purpose. In recent memory, for example, diesel fuel was considered to be ‘environmental’. Look where that judgement led us and the consequences arising.
And so it is now welcome to see some cause for pause before automatically finding candidates for blame.
It is perhaps a mark of the growing maturity in the packaging debate that now we are beginning to see more reflective and longer term thinking about these materials, their use and disposability and making decisions based on sound science.
And although the devil is in the detail, this willingness to suspend judgement is very welcome – for example as stated in the latest publication from The Green Alliance – “Plastic Promises.
As we found with the EU’s promotion of diesel in 1998 as better for the environment – it’s all too easy to go straight from the frying pan into the fire.
The Green Alliance report alerts us to this condition and warns of the alternatives for our food security if we get it wrong.