The Benefits of Using Plastic Packaging
Plastic packaging allows us to protect, preserve, store and transport products in a variety of ways.
Without plastic packaging, a great deal of products that consumers purchase would not make the journey to the home or store, or survive in good condition long enough to be consumed or used.
- Why Use Plastics Packaging?
Above all, plastics are used because of the unique combination of benefits they offer;
Durability: The long polymer chains which constitute the plastics raw material make it extraordinarily difficult to break.
Safety: Plastics packaging is shatterproof and does not fragment into dangerous shards when dropped. For more information on the safety of plastic packaging, as well as its safety in contact with food, visit plastic packaging safety.
Hygiene: Plastics packaging is ideal for the packaging of foodstuffs, medicines and pharmaceuticals. It can be filled and sealed without human intervention. The materials used, both plastics raw materials and additives, fulfill all food safety legislation at national and European Union levels. Plastics products are customarily used as medical devices in intimate contact with body tissue and conform to the highest standards of safety in their life-saving uses.
Security: Plastics packaging can be produced and used with tamper-evident and child resistant closures. The transparency of the pack enables users to examine the condition of the goods prior to purchase.
Light Weight: Plastics packaging items are low in weight but high in strength. Hence products packed in plastics are easy to lift and handle by consumers and by personnel in the distribution chain.
Design Freedom: The properties of the materials combined with the array of processing technologies employed in the industry, ranging from injection and blow moulding to thermoforming, enable the production of an infinite number of pack shapes and configurations. Additionally the extensive range of colouring possibilities and the ease of printing and decoration facilitate brand identification and information for the consumer.
- Pack for All Seasons
The nature of plastics technology with its wide variety of raw materials and processing techniques permits the manufacture of packaging in an infinite variety of shapes, colours and technical properties. Practically anything can be packed in plastics – liquids, powders, solids and semi-solids.
- Contribution to Sustainable Development
3.1 Plastics packaging saves energy
Because it is lightweight plastics packaging can save energy in the transport of packed goods. Less fuel is used, there are lower emissions and, additionally, there are cost savings for distributors, retailers and consumers.
A yogurt pot made from glass weighs about 85grams, while one made from plastics only weighs 5.5grams. In a lorry filled with a product packed in glass jars 36% of the load would be accounted for by the packaging. If packed in plastic pouches the packaging would amount to just 3.56%. To transport the same amount of yogurt three trucks are needed for glass pots, but only two for plastic pots .
3.2 Plastics packaging is an optimal use of resources
Because of the high strength / weight ratio of plastics packaging it is possible to pack a given volume of product with plastics rather than with traditional materials.
It has been shown that if there was no plastics packaging available to society and there was necessary recourse to other materials overall packaging consumption of packaging mass, energy and GHG emissions would increase.
3.3 Plastics packaging prevents food waste
Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten. Wasting this food costs the average household £480 a year, rising to £680 for a family with children, the equivalent of around £50 a month.
The durability and sealability of plastics packaging protects goods from deterioration and increases shelf life. With modified atmosphere packaging made from plastics, shelf life can be increased from 5 to 10 days, allowing food loss in stores to be reduced from 16% to 4%.
Traditionally grapes were sold in loose bunches. Grapes are now sold in sealed trays so that the loose ones stay with the bunch. This has reduced waste in stores typically by over 20%.
3.4 Plastics packaging: continuous improvements through innovation
There is a strong record of innovation in the UK‘s plastics packaging industry.
Technical advances and design flair have reduced the quantity of plastics packaging needed to pack a given quantity of product over time without sacrificing the pack’s strength or durability. For example a 1 litre plastic detergent bottle which weighed 120gms in 1970 now just weighs 43gms, a 64% reduction.
Society’s consumption levels rose by 20% between 1999 and 2004. However the use of plastics packaging only rose by 4% .
4 Plastics Packaging Means Low Environmental Impacts
4.1 Oil and gas in context – carbon savings with plastics packaging
Plastics packaging is estimated to account for just 1.5% of oil and gas use, the BPF estimate. The chemical building blocks for plastics raw materials are derived from by- products of the refining process which originally would have had no other uses.
Whilst the vast majority of oil and gas is consumed in transport and heating , the usefulness of that used for plastics manufacture is extended by the recyclability of plastics and the potential for recovering its energy content at the end of its life in waste to energy plants.
A 2004 study in Canada showed that to replace plastic packaging with alternative materials involve the consumption of 582 million gigajoules more energy and would create 43 million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions. The energy saved each year by using plastics packaging is equivalent to 101.3 million barrels of oil or the amount of CO2 produced by 12.3 million passenger cars.
4.2 Re-usable plastics packaging
Many types of plastics packaging are long – life artifacts. Returnable crates, for example, have life spans of over 25 years or more and re-usable bags are playing a greater role in responsible retailing.
4.3 A strong recycling record
Plastics packaging is eminently recyclable and a growing range of plastics packaging incorporates recyclate. EU legislation now permits the use of plastics recyclate in new packaging intended for food stuffs.
In June 2011 the Government Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) announced that in 2010/11 24.1% of all plastics packaging was recycled in the UK and this achievement exceeded the target figure of 22.5% stated by the government. The UK plastics recycling industry is one of the most dynamic in the EU with some 40 companies constituting the BPF’s Recycling Group.
Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon and one plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 60 watt light bulb for 6 hours .
4.4 Energy from waste
Plastics packaging can be recycled six or more times before its properties are weakened. At the end of its life plastics packaging can be submitted to energy from waste schemes. Plastics have a high calorific value. A mixed basket of plastics products made from Polyethylene and Polyproplylene, for example, would, at 45 MJ/kg, have a much greater net caloric value than coal at 25 MJ/kg.