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Does media 'think smart' about packaging?

USA Weekend’s ‘ThinkSmart, The Green Issue’ presented a negative, one-sided view.

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Printed on 100-percent recycled fiber, the 16-page Sept. 17-20, 2007 USA Weekend newspaper supplement, “Think Smart, The Green Issue, a special midweek edition of your favorite weekend magazine,” delivered “37 exciting, easy ways to help Earth.” Among the issue’s packaging-related recommendations were the following:

• Buy eco-friendly cosmetics. Organic makeup is only part of it; consider the packaging, too. Some containers are designed to degrade, like Cargo’s PlantLove lipstick tubes (shown), which are made of corn. And the boxes they come in are infused with seeds; plant them and they’ll grow.

• Don’t microwave food in plastic. “Every plastic thing you buy starts as oil and never degrades,” according to Wendy Gordon, general manager of National Geographic’s The Green Guide.

• Use powder detergents. “Laundry liquids contain 70-percent to 80-percent water,” said Gordon in the issue. “It costs energy and packaging to bring this water to the consumer, which is unnecessary when your machine adds it.”

• Use biodegradable packing material. Grab biodegradable packaging peanuts to secure your stuff. Available at many packaging-supply stores, they’re made from cornstarch and will dissolve in water. No more wasted space in landfills. Organic packing materials are static-free. And don’t you hate it when Styrofoam peanuts stick to your clothes?”

• Skip the bottled water. The oil used to make plastic water bottles in this country is enough to fuel about 100,000 cars for one year. Plus, only one in six bottles was recycled in 2004.

A packaging response

Packaging World and Healthcare Packaging magazines help support the packaging community through articles that demonstrate to packaging professionals how certain packaging strategies, machinery, and materials benefit companies, particularly end-user packagers of foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and other consumer products. These publications report on the issues and trends that have an impact within the packaging community.

Because the publications support packaging, they carry a pro-packaging bias, but they’re fact-based. Editorials and opinion pieces such as this one are identified. Every case history application story is the result of improving a packaging process that was limiting in some way—perhaps an inefficient machine or line, the use of excessive labor or material, an outdated packaging design, etc. Each is a real-world testimonial from an end user.

Rarely, however, does mass media present stories where packaging helps prevent vital food or drugs from spoiling, or when a bottled water producer lightweights its bottles or a food manufacturer downgauges a packaging material. Four of the five examples above from “ThinkSmart, The Green Issue,” demonstrate a negative perspective regarding packaging.

With that in mind, it’s a good thing that sustainability is receiving so much attention from the trade press. Wherever your company operates in the packaging space, it wouldn’t hurt to demonstrate any pro-environmental efforts your company makes through its manufacturing or packaging operations through the media, whether local or national. Let the public know that not only do you provide a good product, but that you produce and package that product in an environmentally responsible manner.

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