Packaging recyclability: Gen Z responds

An informal study in India finds 70% of packaging continues to be eco-unfriendly. Abhay Avadhani of WhatPackaging? magazine spoke to four young packaging engineers and green-citizens, and asked them whether to promote paperboard packaging or recycling?

08 May 2023 | By Abhay Avadhani

The focus of everybody should be how to make the plastic packaging, whether it's rigid or flexible; more collectible, more remunerative and more easy for collection

The Indian packaging industry is valued at USD 50.5 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach USD 204.81 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 26.7% from 2020 to 2025. The sector growth is around 22-25% CAGR (as per Packaging Industry Association of India) and the Indian per capita packaging consumption is 8.7kg. Among all these dizzy numbers the moot question is: how biodegradable is the sector - and does the industry promote recycling?

Sagar Acharekar, industrial design student and mechanical engineer shared his thoughts with WhatPackaging? that recycling as a whole should be promoted, not only by the packaging industry but also by the government and other ancillary industries. He said, “Even though paper that ends up in landfill is not harmful, it still fills up landfills.”

Acharekar added that companies are using all sorts of polymers, be it synthetic or bioplastics, and there is an ecosystem for their manufacturing. Acharekar said, we might as well work towards completing the loop by making recycling easier not only for organisations but also for end users.

The global recycling and waste management business is a USD 3.5 trillion market. The plastic recycling saves CO2 credits and it was discussed during the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow, last year. An interesting trivia is that in Germany, the waste is sorted out at the consumer’s end and “there is a hefty fine which is imposed on the citizens if the waste is not segregated.”

Tushar Yeola, packaging intern at Moglix Packaging believes that recyclability is an important aspect that should be considered; to discuss, promote and create awareness among the users and industry. “Recycling a packaging material adds more value than just reusability. The environment is also being protected when a material gets recycled. In this way, it does not end up in landfills and incinerators which is a big concern,” Yeola added.

Madhura Kalekar, industrial design student and architect shared, “I feel that paperboard packaging might have some amount of plastics and still requires a lot of machining or industrial process. In the case of recycling a plastic, it is a green design and can even be considered into a cradle-to-cradle system causing less harm to the ecosystem.”

“Recycling is also a major part of the circular economy which automatically reduces the amount of waste going into the landfill that eventually reduces the harm caused to the environment. In case of paperboard packaging, the resources used are also a threat to the environment and the bi-product also gets thrown away after a single use causing more waste,” Madhura Kalekar added.

“Recycling involves sorting all other wastes, removing plastic coatings and inks. The processed paperboard is then used to create new packaging materials, which can be used again and again,” said Mansi Gupta, industrial design student and packaging engineer.

The key is to create awareness. Paperboard packaging is a sustainable option since it is lightweight, and reduces the overall carbon footprint of shipping and transportation.

Gupta believes that manufacturers are working on creating more environmentally friendly paperboard solutions and even consumers are more aware about the impact created on the environment. “With creating compost pits, and buying better packaging solutions, everyone is trying to understand the next step. Therefore, by keeping everyone in the supply chain aware, we may be able to build an ideal solution,” she added.

Is this utopia?

At WhatPackaging?, we would like to propose something which was shared by the 1998 Nobel laureate, Jose Saramago in his interview to The Paris Review. Saramago said, “I would propose what I have sometimes called developing backwards, which appears to be a contradiction, because one can only develop in a forward direction. Developing backwards means, very simply, this: the level we have reached—not the rich, but those in the upper middle class—allows us to live comfortably. And responsibly.”

Developing backwards would be to say, Let us stop here and turn toward those billions of people who have been left behind and impacted by the pollutants. 

Saramago says, “The world could be a better place, and it could very easily be made a better place.​​”

Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Results

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Shortcomings in EPR policy

 

22.22%

Inadequate infrastructure

 

11.11%

Shortage of recycling firms

 

16.67%

Lack of consumer awareness

 

50.0%

Total Votes : 18

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