How Paper Can Help Solve our Plastic Waste Crisis

A plastic cup has been washed onto a beach

The recent announcement that a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which is home to less than 600 people and to more than 400 million pieces of plastic waste weighing 238 tons, made global headlines and again highlighted the dire issue of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.

The massive amount of plastic that is part of the global packaging industry is a pivotal part of the world’s plastic waste crisis. All this plastic waste contributes to irreversible damage to our environment. Of the estimated 400 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, 40% (160 million tons) is earmarked for single-use packaging and thrown away. For years, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe recycling is the answer; saving the world is as simple as filling a blue or green container and wheeling it to the curb once or twice a week. Sadly, it turns out that 91% of all plastics end up in landfills, incinerators or our oceans, and the World Economic Forum calculates that in about 30 years, the amount of plastics in the ocean will outnumber fish by weight.

The packaging industry is a large part of this problem. The sheer amount of protective packaging – material that protects, wraps or cushions products during the shipping process – is staggering. The overwhelming amount of such packaging, whether it’s bubble wrap, foam padding, air pillows, or Styrofoam, is made of complex chemical compounds can’t be easily recycled. For example, when bubble wrap and air pillows end up at recycling centers, they clog the machinery, costing those centers money.

A number of companies, including Colgate Palmolive, Nestlé, SC Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company, and Unilever, are publicly disclosing their annual plastic packaging volumes. They are committing huge resources to removing harmful materials from the manufacturer-to-consumer exchange, turning to biodegradable, fiber-based alternatives for their protective packaging needs. To do that, they are turning to a solution that’s more than 5,000 years old: paper.

Paper is being increasingly seen as an environmentally-friendly, economical, and viable, alternative to foam and plastic packaging. Innovations in paper packaging have shown it to be just as effective as plastic and foam in protecting products and it’s truly friendlier to the environment. Approximately 70% of paper is recycled annually in Europe and North America, compared to only 5% of plastic packaging materials. It also helps that many of the current paper-based packaging alternatives use recycled and virgin wood paper pulp from sustainably sourced trees and government-certified mills. Consumers seem to understand the importance of this shift in the materials used in packaging: a recent survey found that 9 out of 10 consumers would choose paper-based packaging, if given a choice.

At Pioneer Packaging Worldwide, we are committed to offering innovative, sustainable solutions that embrace corporate social responsibility while respecting the environment and the future. To learn more about our commitment using environmentally-friendly packaging, contact us today.

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