Plastics manufacturers as well as product manufacturers and consumers are beginning to embrace sustainable packaging methods that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many different ways.
While we all know that the use of fossil fuels like oil and coal are prime drivers of greenhouse gases such as higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air, we seldom connect this to our packaging. The truth is that most packaging is created in facilities run by coal power plants while the products and their packages are transported by trucks that emit carbon dioxide. Today’s sustainable packaging and environmentally-friendly packaging is rapidly taking hold as viable alternatives to help reduce these buildup of greenhouse gases.
In addition to manufacturers creating plastic bags that can be recycled or compostable, many commodity plastics manufacturers and product manufacturers are also using a practice called lightweighting to make thinner plastic bottles and containers with the same feel as denser plastics. The advent of bioplastic (aka organic plastic) made from renewable sources is becoming an increasing larger source of sustainable packaging that is competitive with petroleum-based plastics.
Most bioplastics today are derived from starch-based or cellulose-based plant matter as well as cane sugar or glucose. All three of these practices cut down on the amount of raw polyethylene that must be produced to make the products, which is an energy intensive one. Since they are biodegradable, the also break down more rapidly in landfills.
While not a direct source of sustainable packaging, alternative energy sources such as biofuels as well as wind and solar energy are offsetting the fossil fuel energy used in manufacturing and transport of these and other products. This can have a profound effect on lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, there is even a plastics manufacturer that has recently developed a viable way to take greenhouse gases and turn them into plastic. The company’s proprietary biocatalyst converts greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide into PHA-based plastics. The high-performance thermoplastics can be developed in large quantities from the methane and/or carbon dioxide derived from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities as well as energy facilities.
With sustainable packaging just one of many ways this plastic will be utilized, environmentalist and manufacturers are guardedly optimistic. It seems that the process easily competes with oil-based commodity plastics in terms of its affordable price, high performance and of course, sustainability.
Every day, researchers and manufacturers are devising new methods to create sustainable packaging that is not harmful to us or the planet. As more manufacturers and consumers embrace these forms of sustainable packaging we will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that bring major threats of global warming to people, plants, and animals around the globe.