Thursday, May 5, 2022

packaging for the future

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Trace One is a Business Reporter client

According to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the amount of plastic waste worldwide has doubled since 2000, producing 353 million tons in 2019 alone. Only 9 percent of this is currently recycled.

A separate study by the Environmental Investigation Agency suggests that the threat from plastic pollution is as great as that of climate change, and warns that there will be about 70 million tons of plastic in the world’s rivers and oceans by 2040.

Packaging made by companies is an important factor – and one that all companies need to address. In the EU, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive has set firm targets for 70 percent of all packaging to be recycled by 2030, including 55 percent plastic. Other countries, including France and Spain, have taken steps to completely ban the use of plastic in certain products.

Charlotte Le Coz is Product Marketing Manager at software company Trace One, the world’s largest collaborative consumer goods retail platform. She says legislation is a factor driving more companies to evaluate their packaging requirements and take steps to improve environmental impact. “The time frame is very tight and it will happen very quickly,” she says. “Companies need to think about this now. The other driver is customer expectations as it is now common for consumers to ask many more questions about packaging.”

However, knowing where to start is not easy and the subject is more complex than it might seem at first glance. “Consumers don’t always have all the information they need to ask the right questions,” says Le Coz. “You can see that plastic is the bad guy, but some plastics could be fully recyclable and potentially better than complex packaging with multiple components that cannot be recycled.”

It is also not easy to simply replace a specific packaging element, since each method must also fulfill the task of protecting a product such as food. “You need to know that your product is safe, so something like paper might not be appropriate for some products,” Le Coz points out. “You also need to do studies to find out what impact this will have on your production. You may need to change machines or adjust production lines.”

The first step in any process of evaluating and improving packaging options is to find out where the company stands today. “You need to inventory your entire product portfolio,” says Le Coz. “If you don’t have packaging experts in your industry, you can use the regulations as a first step because you are forced to comply. Then you can figure out what you can do to change things.” Trace One’s packaging management software helps companies quickly identify products with materials that may need to be improved or eliminated for more environmentally friendly packaging.

An important next step is determining where the initial attention should be directed. “Focus on the quick actions that give you the best return on investment,” she advises. “It might be better for you to focus first on changing the packaging of a product you sell frequently because in terms of the tons of materials on the market, that could really make an impact. Then you can look at areas where you might have more complex packaging but aren’t making a lot of sales.” Practical steps could be resizing a product, replacing a specific component in the design of the packaging, or identifying an entirely new one method of protecting products as a whole.

For most retailers or manufacturers, this means working closely with suppliers and even the suppliers’ packaging providers. “Often, retailers want to make changes, but they can’t do it if the supplier isn’t ready,” says Le Coz. “We work a lot with the supplier community to help them understand what is expected of them and how to work with their own packaging suppliers.” This creates a virtuous circle that involves a community of engaged retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and packaging suppliers, all committed to complying with certain standards and local and international guidelines.

The ability to measure the impact of each strategy is also critical and can help organizations communicate their performance to customers, investors and other stakeholders. “They can show how many tons of plastic they saved or made a percentage improvement over the year,” says Le Coz. Trace One’s dashboard can help demonstrate this.

Acting now, before new regulations leave you no choice, can help improve a company’s reputation and attract customers, especially among younger age groups. “Younger consumers are very focused on packaging, so the more you can do in this area the better,” concludes Le Coz. “Early action gives you an advantage over your competitors and ensures you are well positioned to meet the requirements of new legislation that comes into effect.”

Trace One helps retailers, manufacturers and other consumer goods industries turn their packaging challenge into a growth opportunity. To learn more, visit traceone.com/en/packaging.

Originally published on Business Reporter

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