Ethical Issues in Packaging Practices
With increasing shift towards concern for environmental conservation, various ethical issues have been raised regarding packaging practices. Packaging practices play an important role in environmental conservation. The key concern in recent times has been whether packaging materials and practices lead to the release of greenhouse gases. Packaging refers to products made for the protection, delivery, containment and presentation of other products such as raw materials, final products e.t.c.
The environmental effects of packaging with respect to GHG are varied depending on their production techniques and materials. The size of packaging forms an important issue of concern since thicker packaging materials consume more raw materials and have the potential of releasing greater amounts of GHG (Cresswell, 2002). Thicker packaging also implies that the packaging products will be heavier, consuming greater amounts of fuel during transportation and leading to release of more GHG (Verghese et al., 2012). In addition to this, thicker non-biodegradable packaging also impacts the environment negatively.
A second ethical concern in packaging practice relates to the creation of layered packages especially those used for the packaging of perishable products. Layered packaging materials comprise of different components which make the materials difficult to recycle. In addition to this, the need for new raw materials reduces environmental conservation through resource depletion. On the other hand, the un-recycled packaging materials increase waste generation.
Another ethical concern in packaging is the provision of misleading information in labels. For instance, some plastic food packaging materials may be labeled as recycled while others are labeled as recyclable or biodegradable. This misleads consumers who may be environmentally conscious yet the materials remain in landfills for years and recycling of food packaging materials is prohibited due to reasons related to sanitation. Manufacture of disposable packaging material also reduces environmental sustainability due to resource consumption and waste generation.
Other issues raised concerning ethical packaging include the use of high energy content packaging materials. These materials when disposed result in energy loss since the energy therein is not recycled. Apart from this, use of oversized packaging materials and reduced pallet efficiency are also concerns on packaging ethics. The use of oversized materials deceives consumers about the actual amount of product contains while also increasing raw material consumption and waste generation properties. Similarly, reduced pallet efficiency results in high transportation costs and the associated high rates of GHG emissions. The design of packaging also influences the volume occupied in waste disposal locations.
Based on the ethical concerns raised about packaging practices, it is essential for companies to come up with packaging practices that not only satisfy their long term needs but also comply with the environmental demands. Developing packaging materials that are aimed at sustainability can help reduce the potential negative environmental impacts of packaging practices. Use of fewer materials in packaging can help to reduce raw material consumption, fuel consumption in transportation and GHG release upon combustion.
Layering in the packaging materials can be reduced while also maintaining quality and protection can help in addressing ethical concerns raised by layering. Moreover, instead of misleading information about recyclability, packaging labels should indicate the type of materials used in manufacture and the recycling codes for the material. Ensuring reusability as recommended by Haggar (2007), using materials with low energy content, standard packaging sizes and using pallet sizes that optimize pallet utilization can all assist in addressing ethical concerns in packaging practices in various ways.
Finally, safety in disposal can be addressed through manufacturing packaging materials that can be reused and or recycled severally prior to disposal. In conclusion embracing the aspect of sustainable packaging throughout the supply chain can help to address the ethical concerns in packaging and should thus be recommended for all organizations.
Cresswell, L. (2002). Product design graphics with materials technology. Oxford [u.a.: Heinemann.
Haggar, S. (2007). Sustainable industrial design and waste management: Cradle-to-cradle for sustainable development. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press.
Verghese, K., Lewis, H., & Fitzpatrick, L. (2012). Packaging for sustainability. London: Springer.
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