Packaging Sustainability 101 – The Engineering Mantra


The debate around sustainability in packaging continues unabated. It is quite astounding that the number of commentaries and statements from both individuals and businesses are somewhat lacking in fact and substance. But that doesn’t make for a great headline, does it? Yes, it’s great to set targets for 2025, but who’s going to keep them accountable, and what’s more, how on earth do they plan to achieve this? A detailed plan is what I want to see.

Medoola remains committed to finding solutions that offer the potential for our clients’ future packaging, especially in regards to environmental footprint. However, it is interesting to note that in many conversations since the turn of the year, there has been a lack of understanding of where a product, a brand or a business originally and officially sits in terms of sustainability.

“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t look back” to quote a line from a classic song by Irish rappers, House of Pain makes my point. Simply put, assess your current position before making any rash decisions on changes to your packaging or setting targets that get you on the front page of The Grocer. It brings me back to the old engineering 101: ‘If you cant measure it, you cant manage it”

To this day, the slogan still adorns the walls of many a production facility. Yet, as we try to understand sustainability, it seems very few are remembering this mantra. It’s an approach we believe has enormous value, both to validate packaging developments, but also to use as an effective tool in setting a business strategy within this area. We should not await clarification on what Governmental position is right or wrong. After all, it is we, as professionals that should steer the Government in a fair and constructive direction.

There’s a purpose to Life Cycle Analysis

Life Cycle Analysis has been around for a number of years, but only now is its true potential coming to the fore. Creating an environmental footprint for your packaging begins with the realisation that there is no one size that fits all solution.

Applying a generic solution to a problem that is challenging to everyone for different reasons is nonsensical. Recycling, incineration, biodegradables, and dare I say it, landfills all have a vital part to play.

That’s why Life Cycle Analysis is so important. It is allowing individual businesses to set environmental packaging targets based on their own specific supply chain. More importantly, you can begin to weigh up not just packaging options but also where, as a business you can reduce your total environmental impact – and actually create realistic Corporate Social Responsibility Policies that you can achieve, on time. LCA allows measurement of packaging from raw material to end of life, measuring key manufacturing consumptions as well as end life recovery. The results can be pretty startling in some cases, but always provide fact to dispel many a myth.

As a business, you will gain tangible results. So when the media and shareholders come a calling – probably sooner rather than later – you can justify why decisions have been made and strategies have been put in place. So, for sustainability in packaging always remember your engineering mantra – it will serve you well and packaging won’t become your House of Pain.

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