Package Related Pollution: Problems And Solutions
Packages are everywhere. Almost everything we buy nowadays come in them, with many shapes, sizes and materials. Our consumerist society requires this to happen, sometimes due to health reasons but also only because of "futile" reasons. This raises problems, both regarding the way these packages are produced as well as the way they are disposed of. But there are also some solutions.
Obviously, in order to produce packages some raw material is needed. For paper/carton packages you need trees, for cans you need aluminum, for plastic you need petrochemicals (chemicals deriving from petrol). Producing all of these causes some impact to our environment; not only in the production itself, but also before that, during the harvesting of the raw materials, and afterwards on the transportation. For example, producing 1 ton of cardboard takes the following resources: 17 trees, 300 liters of oil (79 gallons), 26,500 liters of water (7,000 gallons) and 46,000 kilowatts of energy.
Another huge problem is related to the way we dispose of these packages. If not disposed correctly, they might end up in the environment, being a potential cause for several environmental problems. For example, 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled, and they take 700 years to begin composting. Most packages ultimately end up on the sea, causing for increasingly polluted waters which may present danger not only to aquatic species but also to humans.
The most immediate solution is to improve the way we handle these disposable packages. The "5R Policy" gives a great insight on this subject: reduce the amount of packages we use; reuse the packages as often as possible; always recycle the packages; recover packages when possible; and renovate packages before throwing them away.
Another solution is to improve the packaging process in order to streamline and blend in design elements, manufacturing methods and the logistical solutions. Also, responsible package design should be encouraged, in order to stop the wasting of those raw materials in unnecessary packaging.
Last but not least, industries should opt (or being "forced" to) by greener packages, such as biodegradable or recycled ones. Also, packaging innovation should be thoroughly encouraged and financed, but always with environmental concerns in mind.
Packaging production takes a lot of raw materials, which has an environmental impact on its own, which increases if we take into account the resources needed for the distribution of the packages. The way we dispose of them is also very important, so that they do not end up where harm can be done.
We all are responsible for the "life cycle" of packages, from the moment we buy products with them to the moment we dispose of them. So, it is also our job to contribute to reduce all the jeopardy packages can cause to our environment, by being responsible and watchful consumers, with an active voice while demanding changes.
Diogo Costa • International Innovations