Plastic packaging continues to play a vital role in the global economy. The purpose of plastic packaging in the safe and efficient distribution of products cannot be underestimated. However, poor handling by end-users results in plastic packaging finding its way into rivers and oceans. As such, plastic manufacturers have a responsibility to prevent improper disposal of plastic packaging. An effective strategy that manufacturers can use to control pollution is to produce plastic packaging for a circular economy. The strategy ensures used plastic packaging either remains with end-users or finds its way back to a manufacturer, but not a landfill. This article highlights fundamental principles that guide the circularity of plastic packaging.
Designing with Reuse in Mind — One of the fundamental principles of a circular economy in plastic packaging is designing packaging for reuse. When plastic packaging offers nothing besides the protection of content, the chances are high that a user will dispose of it carelessly. However, it is a different story if the design of plastic packaging promotes reuse. For instance, many people clean plastic containers and use them as lunch boxes. However, a plastic container is rendered useless once its plastic lid gets lost, which increases the likelihood of improper disposal. Therefore, plastic manufacturers can design plastic containers that are compatible with silicone stretch lids. The design ensures plastic containers can still be reused regardless of whether lids are damaged or lost.
Design with Recycling in Mind — It is estimated that only 14% of all plastic waste is recycled. This is an embarrassing statistic, and part of the problem lies in the manufacture of plastic packaging that is challenging to recycle. For example, some plastic packaging is impregnated with non-recyclable materials to make it stronger or enhance performance and aesthetics. A good example is a disposable cup. Separating plastic from the paper is a nightmare for recyclers; hence, such cups end up in landfills. Manufacturing with recycling in mind ensures that manufacturers only add different materials to plastic packaging if necessary. Most importantly, plastic packaging that is easy to sort and recycle is more likely to find its way back to the plastic economy.
Balance between Plant-Based and Petrochemical Plastics — petrochemical-based plastics can only be recycled twice or thrice since they lose strength with each recycling. It means such plastics cannot be recycled into original products. Although complete replacement of petrochemical-based plastics with plant-based ones is impossible today, plastic manufacturers can find a balance. Notably, chemical recycling of plant-based plastics breaks down plastic polymers. This ensures the plastic retains its properties even with unlimited recycling. Such a balance helps manufacturers to spend less money on plastic packaging while improving customer experience.
Reach out to a plastic packaging manufacturer to learn more about plastics.