Pro Carton – the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers – has called for an update on the ‘3 Rs of Recycling’ (reduce, reuse, recycle) – updating the waste hierarchy to respond to today’s packaging conundrum. Its ‘5 Rs of Responsibility’, include implementable steps for consumers, brand owners, retailers, manufacturers and government to help reduce the impact packaging waste has on our environment.
Pro Carton’s 5 Rs include the well known ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, but it believes two additional steps should be considered: renew and replace. These steps represent a guideline in which society can take responsibility for their actions, reduce the levels of packaging waste created and move towards a true circular economy.
Reduce: An efficient way to help the environment is to reduce waste all together. Packaging manufacturers have long adopted a philosophy to minimise packaging both to reduce costs and minimise the impact on the environment.
Reuse: Reusable or returnable packaging is designed to be used many times, offering significant benefits in terms of sustainability, productivity, food safety and more.
Recycle: Packaging doesn’t need to cause harm on our environment. The solution is to improve recycling rates. To do this, manufacturers need to ensure all packaging is recyclable, while governments need to regulate and standardise the recycling services on offer to both consumers and businesses.
Renew: By choosing packaging materials that are truly renewable (cartons are the ultimate example, being made from trees which are in Europe are replanted in far greater numbers than are harvested), brands can improve sustainability and take those all-important steps to achieve the circular economy.
Replace: There is a vast range of packaging materials currently available on the market that are both renewable and sustainable, making replacing non-sustainable and non-recyclable packaging a clear step in the right direction. Brands can replace materials that may damage our surroundings with environmentally friendly alternatives, without impacting brand equity and on-shelf appeal.
Speaking about the campaign, Tony Hitchin, general manager of Pro Carton, said: ‘The world has changed and the 3Rs of Recycling don’t fully reflect the actions society needs to be taking to meet the challenges caused by plastic waste. We believe it is the responsibility of consumers and industry to take responsibility and make a conscious decision to mend the damage caused.
‘Packaging is an important element of the marketing mix and plays a much wider role than just protecting the product. It is a key promotional tool that can enforce the identity that is inextricably linked to a brand – but it doesn’t need to leave any lasting damage on our planet. Cartonboard as a material is made from renewable resources, is biodegradable and recyclable. It is the natural choice for the packaging industry.’
We think this is a great initiative, which is just as important in all areas of life, as well as for packaging.