FDF and INCPEN publish ‘sustainability checklist’ for packaging

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) have today (10 March) published a ‘sustainability checklist’ for packaging.

Packaging for people, planet and profit – a sustainability checklist’ is intended to ‘support businesses in considering packaging as part of the total product system for delivering products from point of production to point of consumption’.

The FDF and INCPEN say that the checklist ‘will help companies choose and optimise their packaging systems in order to continuously improve the sustainability of their value chain’ through guidance for ‘resource efficiency at all stages of a packaged product’s journey while ensuring that the essential functionality of the packaging is not compromised’.

Writing in the guide’s forward, Resource Minster Therese Coffey called on industry to ‘continue to explore opportunities to ensure packaging is not only effective, but is also sustainable and recyclable where possible’.

The minister added: ‘We have made great progress in boosting recycling rates and making more packaging recyclable, and we continue to see exciting innovation in this area. But there is still much more to be done to increase sustainability across the supply chain – from producers and into the home… This framework is a strong development towards a more sustainable future.’

Checklist details

The guide encourages those in the packaging supply chain to ask a series of questions in three areas that the organisations note present ‘often competing demands’: functionality; reuse, recovery and recycling; and transport. It makes clear, however, that the organisations feel ‘the functional aspects of packaging have to be the top priority’.

On the functionality of packaging, the guide notes that while design-for-recycling ‘is one consideration’, other requirements like ensuring maximum lorry loads, efficient stacking, filling speeds and efficient use ‘are equally, if not more, important’.

Each section includes a series of yes/no questions on packaging, which would ideally be considered at the same time as a product is designed. The questions are intended to ‘challenge the design of existing packaging’; ensure packaging meets necessary regulatory, safety and hygiene standards; minimise waste through product protection; and ‘provide guidance on overall resource efficiency throughout the supply chain’.

‘A net improvement in the use of resources’

Commenting on the guide, Helen Munday, Director of Food Safety, Science and Sustainability and Chief Scientific Officer at the FDF, said: “This guidance will help businesses choose and optimise their use of packaging in ways that will contribute to a net improvement in the use of resources across the value chain. This improvement can be achieved whilst continuing to ensure that food safety and quality requirements are not compromised. We encourage all food and drink operators to use it.”

Jane Bickerstaffe, Director of INCPEN, added: “The checklist will help companies improve packaging for food and drink and other products, make it more consumer-friendly and make supply chains more resource-efficient. Supply chain companies are more aware of, and responsive to, environmental concerns than many businesses. This checklist will help them demonstrate that responsiveness to the public.”

The guide is available to download from both the FDF and INCPEN websites.