As with many environmental concerns, there is no simple solution to the issue of plastic packaging and its subsequent disposal or recycling. Indeed, many of the most widely believed and obvious solutions can actually lead to far more damaging and unintended consequences.

The products of BPI and other equally environmentally conscious manufacturers already provide a significant environmental advantage by preserving the products consumers demand in a way that employs minimal resources and that creates minimal waste.

However our products are not actually the things the consumer wants. They want what our products package and protect. As such, once our products have done their job the consumer throws them away and consequently sees them as disposable - as part of the waste stream. The reality however isn’t that clear cut. They actually play an important part in reducing spoilage or breakage which creates environmental issues of its own.

Our products have been specifically designed to be part of the solution. By producing products from the most lightweight and durable material capable of properly protecting the goods that society and consumers need, we are helping to protect the environment. Without them, the damage to our environment from unnecessary spoilage and wastage would be very much worse.

Furthermore, many of our products can be re-used or recycled into new products after fulfilling their primary purpose, bringing additional environmental benefits. Where they cannot be recycled, most of our products can be used to generate energy through incineration - and some of those remaining may also be suitable for composting and biodegredation.

We recognise that as consumers we all want to do our 'bit' for the environment. BPI therefore supports any change in behaviour that produces net environmental benefits, however small. We encourage and facilitate initiatives that reduce unnecessary packaging and promote opportunities for re-use and recycling.

BPI is totally committed to helping the general public and opinion-formers to understand these issues and to retain a sense of perspective in the face of those who see packaging as an easy populist target. The claim that consumers don't really need it is dangerously misleading from an environmental perspective - the facts continue to speak for themselves in countries where inadequate packaging causes significant and avoidable wastage. It also risks diverting attention from the much greater challenges posed by our society's impact on our planet through consumption, travel and energy use.


Source material for the facts and figures quoted can be found at www.incpen.co.uk, www.pifa.co.uk and www.bpf.co.uk/bpfissues/sustainability.cfm.
The information on the Canadian study by the Environmental and Plastics Industry Council in Canada can be found at www.plastics.ca/epic. The information on energy-from-waste can be found at www.massbalance.org