MARKETS & PACKAGING


Removing Avoidable Plastics

07/03/2018

CATEGORY: Sustainability and environment BRAND: Rapid Action Packaging

Plastic litter is accumulating worldwide. 80% of marine debris is plastic, more than 60% of it comes from the single use packaging industry. Just around 14% of the global plastic packaging produced is collected for recycling and a mere 2% is close-looped recycled.


Paola Cárceles

 

Oceans cover 75% of our Planet and we all rely on them. Our atmosphere and oceans are experiencing a drastic change: They are warming up and changing composition, faster than ever recorded. Virtually every corner of the world’s oceans is affected by pollution. A growing global challenge with an acute environmental, social and economic impact.

 

 

Plastic debris can come in all shapes and sizes, those that are less than half a centimetre are called microplastics. These tiny plastic fibres and fragments aren’t just choking the ocean; they have infested the world’s drinking water. Microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals. They reach our household tap by contaminating local water sources, or treatment and distribution systems. But no one knows, and no specific procedures yet exist for filtering or containing them. Furthermore, if plastic fibres are in our water, experts say they’re surely in our food as well — soups, beer, honey, sauces, whether from the kitchen or the grocery.

Even more of a worry is that our appetite for resources is growing – from 15million tonnes of plastic produced in 1964 to over 311 million tons in 2014. We need to understand that these resources are not endless.

Still, each year, an estimated 88 million tonnes of food is wasted in the EU, around 20% of the total amount produced.

 

 

Plastics not only prevent food waste, they are used in packaging so commonly because of the unique combination of benefits they offer: relatively low cost, durability and low maintenance, extended shelf life, prevention of microbial spoilage and protection of its content during transit.

Yet, they are one of the most wasteful examples of our existing linear, take-make-dispose economy. But not everything is lost, they can be a valuable and highly recyclable resource that could stay productive within the circular economy, only if we use them wisely.

Consumption of packaging continues to increase, due to a range of social, demographic and economic trends. Hence the importance of giving a suitable solution to the market.

RAP understands that this issue has never been so important in the eyes of the consumer, with increasing pressures on retailers to lessen the impact they have on the environment; packaging being the major focus. Working with RAP will enable these standards to be met by dramatically reducing packaging weight, maximising recyclability and utilising sustainable materials. This allows our customers to further demonstrate their commitment to social, ethical and environmental concerns.

 

The design phase is fundamental

By weight the largest components of our packaging are paperboard and paper. The fibre used in paperboard is a certified, renewable resource, from well-managed forests. Our minimal use of film laminates – only where necessary- allows our customers to reduce the amount of petroleum-based plastics in their supply chains by 80%, while giving the preservative properties that the public expects in modern food packaging. The majority of our packaging can be labelled “widely recyclable”, and we even produce fully compostable products using papers made of agricultural by-products and films made from organic renewable resources.

We differentiate ourselves by a change of thinking at an early stage of the product design phase. One of the key features of a circular economy is to be restorative and regenerative by design. Thus, we consider not only all resources used, but also their procurement and processing, as well as the lifespan of our products.

Sustainability isn't hard, it's just not simple. For us at RAP, there is not just one bottom line (Profit) but there are two more (People and Planet). We measure our impact based on this approach, beyond the traditional bottom line of business to the profits that a company makes socially, environmentally, and economically. Without these three pillars, there cannot be a successful sustainable development. As a committed company, we try to protect and, where possible, improve the environment, promote sustainable development and prevent the wasteful use of resources.

 

At the design stage, there are five fundamental questions that we ask ourselves:

 

1. How can we design our products with asset recovery in mind?

2. How can we develop product lines to meet demand without wasting assets?

3. How can we source material in regenerative loops rather than linear flows?

4. How can we develop a revenue model that protects value up and down the chain?

5. How can we get our customers to team up with us?

 

Our Freshpack EasyPeel and our FibreRAP are good examples of this:

 

 

While the cardboard element of RAP’s Freshpack sandwich packaging can easily be recycled, we found that customers and processors were having difficulty separating the cardboard from the film part of the pack – Freshpack EasyPeel solves this issue and reduces resource needed at end of life in the waste stream

 

 

FibreRap is a combination of laminated film to a special thermoformable paper, this solution replaces rigid plastic trays used for modified atmosphere packaging. Its high content of recyclable paper, more than 80% by weight, makes this container the best option in terms of our environment.

 

Thankfully, an increasing number of consumers are becoming aware of the importance of adopting more sustainable habits and finding more environmentally friendly solutions regarding food packaging. It’s now up to all of us to adopt and implement these behaviours.

 

 

Our goal is to make major improvements over time in the sustainability of our product to reduce its overall environmental impact.

Take action now to avoid future costs.

 

Paola Cárceles  is a graduate in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Environmental Management from University of Murcia, her dissertation focused on the design, build and testing of ultra-energy vehicles. This culminated in the globally recognised Eco-Marathon in 2010, in Germany.   Firmly committed to circular economy and sustainable development She is currently the Head of Sustainability at Rapid Action Packaging. Before joining RAP, Paola spent three years at Plásticos Romero, one of Europe’s leading packaging suppliers, as the head of Product Development.

 

 

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