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Winner 2023 Mother’s Day “Over Packaging” award

The current preoccupation in the packaging industry (and others) is with sustainability and recycling. Whilst these may be laudable objectives, however they can obscure consideration of so many other packaging properties. In particular immediate improvements could be made in our use of the Earths natural resources and the reduction of our GHG emission.

For example Reduce – Reuse – Recycle was the original advice from W.R.A.P when considering packaging materials design. In some cases this mantra has been obscured by the subsequent pre occupation with sustainability, allied to Anti plastic paranoia. The photograph shows 3 kilos of a cardboard box, with a fluted board liner, packed with paper and polystyrene beads to protect the contents. This is just an extreme example of packaging which is literally “costing the Earth”. The content was a ½ kilo plant which should never have been sent by post. However if the company felt that posting was essential to their business, they should at least have packaging designed to fit their products. This should be their primary consideration.

Whilst I have not named the company as they are only one of many, the card inside stated that “we plant trees, to sustain our packaging”!! Thus they feel that it is environmentally beneficial to plant trees that take 12 years to replace the ones they cut down, to supply packaging that wasn’t needed!! As a consequence they claim their packaging is “sustainable”!!

The fact that the polystyrene beads are virtually unrecyclable is an inconvenient truth which ignored in the blurb. 

However, this type of overpackaging is only one example of the misuse of the Earth’s resources in the pursuit of “sustainability”. The above photograph shows rows and rows of glass bottles and jars. Virtually all of which could be replaced by plastics (PET). If this was done, according to a recent publication by Amcor

  • GHG emissions would be reduced by 70%.
  • Water consumption would be reduced by 50%.
  • Domestic waste would be dramatically reduced (glass is 12 times heavier than plastic).
  • In addition these would be significant reductions in transport
  • And we would not have a global shortage of Sicilia sand.

N.B 90% of PET bottles are sent for recycling.

In summary if it is universally accepted that reducing packaging is the first step in reducing GHG emissions and minimising the use of the Earths natural resources. Therefore, it follows logically that wherever possible we should be using plastics in preference to alternative materials. Currently the fact is obscured by the medias focus on plastic litter and the lack of recycling facilities for plastics. This ignores the research that concludes that “Plastics are arguably the most revolutionary material humanity has invented” (Mc Insey & Co “Climate Impact of Plastics Research Report 2022”).

I would be interested in any examples you may have of gross over packaging, meanwhile I welcome your views on any of the items considered and why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular updates.



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