10 Generations from Now
Beginning in 2009, going green for manufacturers of consumer product goods (CPGs) meant reducing the amount of packaging to pare down the product’s carbon footprint. With diminishing returns, that well has almost run dry.
Although CPGs continue to look to their own operations, formulations, and waste generation to become better global citizens, landfills will continue to swell and multiply unless another large and influential group makes drastic and permanent changes to its behavior.
Which group? Us. You and me.
When we throw something away, just because we can no longer see it does not mean it has magically ceased to exist. There are signs that we have finally begun to banish this mindset, taught to each of us by the preceding generation, on back to the beginning of the Industrial Age. For decades we have behaved as if the waste we generate was somebody else’s problem. But no longer.
The time has come for all of us to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
But how can we live a more sustainable lifestyle if so much of what we buy comes in plastic packaging? Here’s the truth: plastic is here to stay. Like a world without paper, life would become a nightmare of inconvenience without it. Both these materials make our lives easier in uncountable ways.
It’s what we do with it when we are through with it.
Naturally, PPC is here to promote recyclable, renewable, sustainable packaging made from paperboard. Yet we acknowledge there are many times when plastic makes a more appropriate package for both the product and the consumer. PPC applauds every effort to increase the recyclability of plastic packaging, to minimize its harmful effects on the environment, and to increase the use of non-fossil-fuel based materials.
In 2011, two-thirds of all paper and paperboard waste was recycled. That is the highest amount since the EPA began keeping records. But in school, what grade would 66.8% would earn us? We can do better. And we will.
Unfortunately, the statistic for plastic is much worse: less than 14% of plastic waste generated was recovered. As consumers, we must learn which grades of plastic are recyclable and lobby our communities to make all forms of recycling available.
The debate over whether paperboard or plastic offers the most environmentally friendly packaging solution misses the point, which is this: the entire packaging industry has an unprecedented opportunity to create new materials that minimize greenhouse gases, to use substrates which do not deplete the planet's resources, and to educate the consumer so that we all learn to live more sustainably.
In the long run, it’s not about paper versus plastic—it’s about taking responsibility; it’s about doing the right thing; it’s about working toward leaving a world our great-great-grandchildren will be grateful to inherit from us.