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Benefits of Plastic Packaging

Here are a few more articles surrounding the plastic packaging debate.  Enjoy the read.

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Top 5 Benefits of Plastic Packaging – Custom-Pak

“If you have a product packaging dilemma, chances are, you can solve it with plastics. Plastics are strong, durable, lightweight, and save in both cost and material resources over the alternatives.

Take a closer look at the top five benefits of plastic packaging.

1. It’s durable.
Plastic can be as strong as steel. This durability protects your product — from perishable foodstuffs to fragile keepsakes to expensive electronics — from the wear and tear associated with production and shipping. Plastics packaging ensures your product shows up on store shelves or in your customers’ homes looking as good as new.

Durable plastics consume less energy during the production process than metals, too, in part due to how light they are.

2. It’s lightweight.
Plastics are prized for being lightweight. Though over 50% of all European goods are packaged in plastics, these plastics only account for 17% of all packaging weight.

A study of the ramifications of replacing plastic with alternatives (such as paper and paperboard, glass, steel, aluminum, textiles, rubber, and cork) found that substitutes are, on average, 4.5 times heavier. The alternatives require substantially more material output to create the same packaging.

With this winning combination of being lightweight and strong, plastic packaging protects your product without adding bulk. It also saves you in manufacturing and shipping costs.

The lightness of plastic is also closely tied to its superior sustainability. Its comparatively low weight contributes to its lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over other materials.

3. It’s sustainable.
Though many think plastics are a detriment to the environment, the opposite is true. Many of the qualities that critics call environmentally negative, such as plastic’s resistance to corrosion and its bio-inertness, make plastics very resource efficient.

Plastic packaging is also easily and frequently recycled. In 2014 alone, the United States recycled:

Over 3 billion pounds of plastic bottles
Over 1.2 billion pounds of non-bottle rigid plastic
Over 1.1 billion pounds of postconsumer film (including plastic bags and packaging)
In examining global warming potential, plastics blow the other materials out of the water. Sticking with plastics over alternative packaging saves 75.8 million metric tons of CO2. This is equivalent to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions saved by taking almost 16 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

4. It’s versatile.
You can mold plastic into essentially limitless shapes. Think of the vast variety of plastics packaging you see all the time:

Bags and pouches
Films
Flow wraps
Sleeves
Shells
Trays
Pots
Bottles
Drums
It’s hard to think of a packaging material more versatile than plastic. Here are just a few things it can do:

Fit packaging to your product precisely with a custom-made mold.
Form packaging into a box, sphere, cylinder, or any other shape.
Seal a product tightly or provide a simple open frame or hanger.
Package something as small as a button cell battery or as large as a pallet of bicycles.
Hold hot foods, cold liquids, acids, or bases.
Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to plastic packaging.

5. It’s cost effective.
Plastic packaging is notoriously inexpensive. Due to its light weight, plastic saves over alternatives when it comes to shipping and transportation costs. It saves both in the cost to get products to consumers and in the cost to get post-consumer materials to recycling centers.

Its material resource efficiency saves you money, as well. For example, replacing plastic packaging with other materials requires 80% more cumulative energy demand. Plastics, then, result in a significant cost savings on your energy bill over other materials.”

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There’s a Reason We Use Plastics to Package Food by Steve Russell – American Chemistry Matters

“This week, a grocery store in Amsterdam made headlines for being the first to offer an aisle without plastic packaging. If the thinking behind this offering is “less plastic is better in the grocery store”—then we need to ask: In what way is this really a good thing? And we need to be clear about the problem(s) this move is designed to solve.

Are we trying to reduce food waste?
Every year in the United States, about 30 to 40 percent of the food we grow goes uneaten, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The longer a food item stays fresh, the greater its chance of being eaten. Studies have shown that cucumbers wrapped in plastic last eleven days longer than unwrapped cucumbers ; bananas wrapped in plastic last 21 days longer than their unwrapped counterparts ; and beef wrapped in plastic vacuum packaging with an oxygen barrier film lasts 26 days longer .

Countries that package a greater share of food items tend to generate far less food waste than we do.

Do we also want to reduce the environmental impacts that come with food waste?
Growing food requires investments of water, land, energy, and fuel. Now consider that we throw away 30 to 40 percent of everything we grow. That means we’re not just wasting food, we’re wasting 30 to 40 percent of all the resources we used to grow that food. Think of a little food packaging as a small investment that helps to protect all of the resources that went into producing that item.

The director of the Industry Council for Research on Packaging and the Environment has said, “A telling fact is that ten times more resources—materials, energy and water—are used to make and distribute food than are used to make the packaging to protect it.” So when we waste a food item, we’re wasting 10 times the resources that were used to make its protective packaging.

Plus food is the single most prevalent material in our landfills. When food decomposes, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than CO2. Landfills generate 20 percent of all methane emissions, so using plastic packaging to prevent food waste can really help cut our carbon emissions.

Thinking beyond food waste, what about reducing our overall environmental footprint?
It’s true that we can make packaging out of materials other than plastics, namely paper, glass, aluminum and steel. But studies have shown that plastics are often more efficient. Being both strong and lightweight means plastics can ship more product with less packaging material than alternatives. And using less material in the first place results in significant reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste.

A 2016 study by Trucost (Plastics and Sustainability 5) found that replacing plastic with alternatives in packaging and consumer products could raise environmental costs at least fourfold. Another study 6 showed that replacing plastics with alternatives in packaging would increase the amount of packaging generated in the United States by 55 million tons annually, and would increase energy use and our carbon footprint by 82 percent and 130 percent, respectively. Not much of an improvement, right?

Don’t we need to keep plastics out of our oceans?
YES. Full stop. Used plastics shouldn’t find their way into our rivers and oceans. Yet it’s highly unlikely that the packaging on items purchased in a grocery store, then transported home—where we have access to curbside waste collection (and usually also recycling)—will become marine litter. It just doesn’t add up.

The supermarket chain says it’s using biofilms as an alternative to plastics, and claims they’re compostable. But “compostable” products on the market today don’t readily breakdown in our oceans, and recyclers don’t want them for obvious reasons. In the United States and other Western countries, we’re fortunate to have strong systems for collecting and managing materials after use. We need to work on getting more plastics into our recycling systems and making sure our used plastics are directed toward their next productive use. For consumers, that means placing used bottles, containers, caps and lids in our curbside bins and bringing our used polyethylene bags and wraps to grocery stores. We can also shop for new products made with recycled plastics. And of course, we can choose to bring a reusable bag or bottle with us on the go. These, too, are often made from plastics.

The benefits of plastic packaging might not be making headlines these days, but they are making a positive difference in preserving our food and reducing our environmental footprint.”

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