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the role of packaging

Packaging has received a great deal of attention in recent months, which is out of proportion to its presence in the overall waste stream and comments are often weighted against this important industry.  The truth is that packaging has a fundamental role to play and it is absolutely necessary to protect products in modern society.

The growth of consumer choice (large supermarkets stock over 40,000 different products) has transformed the quality of life for most people and these products need protecting.  In the UK economy, waste due to product damage is under 3% while in less well developed parts of the world it can be as high as 50%.  This is all the more significant because food wastage has ten times greater environmental impact than the packaging which protects it. 

The corrugated (cardboard) packaging industry has a particularly strong story: it accounts for over 30% of all UK packaging and we’re proud of its record in protecting products; we offer superb versatility and high quality printing; over 84% of all corrugated packaging is being recycled and 75% of the fibres in our boxes derive from recycled paper.

Three important reports have been published recently: the ACP report 'Packaging in Perspective' presents a factual and balanced view of the important role that packaging plays; the Envirowise guide on eco-design, and the ECR report on Packaging in the Sustainability Agenda, provide invaluable assistance for packaging producers as they seek to make their products as sustainable as possible.

  • While GDP has risen by 28% in the last ten years, the amount of packaging has only risen by 8%;
  • The UK uses less packaging per person than all other major Western European countries;
  • Packaging is less than 3% of solid waste and 60% of it is recovered and recycled each year;
  • The energy used to produce packaging is very small compared to that of the contents, amounting to just one-fifteenth of that used for the products that are protected.

......© Confederation of Paper Industries, 1 Rivenhall Road, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 7BD