Elopak’s Thomas Körmendi On How Cartons Can Be A Catalyst For Plastic Reduction
At this point, most of us are well aware of the detrimental impact of plastic waste on the planet. We have taken steps to reduce our plastic usage, such as avoiding straws and opting for reusable tote bags when shopping.
The recent progress made by UN climate negotiators in Paris, with a binding agreement to eliminate plastic pollution by 2040, is encouraging news. However, there is still more work to be done.
In 2022, 175 nations agreed to address the issue of plastic pollution comprehensively, focusing on its production, design, and disposal to put an end to this environmental challenge permanently.
Unfortunately, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has since adopted a more cautious approach towards tackling the plastic problem.
Their recent report, titled “Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy,” has faced criticism from Plastic Free Future, an advocacy group, for lacking ambition.
The report mainly promotes a strategy centered around chemical recycling for plastic, which can lead to significant amounts of toxic pollution and hazardous waste.
Considering that less than 9% of plastics are currently being recycled globally, organizations like Greenpeace are urging UNEP to prioritize measures such as capping and gradually reducing plastic production instead of relying heavily on recycling as the primary solution to the issue.
The Plastic Dilemma: Embracing Cartons as a Sustainable Solution
The magnitude of the plastic issue is alarming. If the current trend continues, plastic waste is projected to triple by 2060, with less than 20% likely to be recycled. Microplastics have become ubiquitous worldwide, from the deepest oceans to pristine glaciers and even in human breast milk.
To exacerbate the problem, emissions from plastic are estimated to account for 19% of the global greenhouse gas volume permitted under a 1.5ºC scenario for global warming.
Addressing the urgent need to significantly reduce plastic production, it is disheartening that UNEP’s report overlooks a transformative solution that could drastically reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging various food and beverage products. This solution, cartons, has been in use for over a century and is already adopted by thousands of companies globally.
Cartons offer a sustainable and natural alternative to plastic bottles, serving multiple applications in the food and beverage industry, as well as household products like soaps and detergents. Apart from being recyclable, cartons are primarily composed of paperboard, which can be sourced from renewable and sustainably managed forests.
Additionally, they are lighter and easier to transport compared to reusable bottles.
Extensive life cycle analysis studies have consistently shown that cartons have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to plastic and even glass bottles.
Independent research from the University of Southampton in 2020 specifically highlighted that Elopak cartons had the lowest environmental impact among various packaging options for fruit juices.
Despite these merits, UNEP’s “system change” approach fails to make specific provisions for cartons, despite acknowledging that 17% of plastic waste could be eliminated by using more sustainable alternatives like paper; Elopak.
Arguably, this estimate is conservative, especially when considering the staggering rate at which humans consume plastic bottles (over a million per minute).
By overlooking cartons at Elopak as a readily available solution to reduce overall plastic packaging, UNEP misses an opportunity to make a substantial impact within the short timeframe envisioned to combat plastic waste.
Cartons, though containing a small amount of plastic in the form of screw caps and protective barriers, pale in comparison to the massive quantities of plastic inundating the packaging industry.
Given the urgency to eradicate plastic waste, Elopak is providing readily available solutions that are crucial to curbing plastic consumption in our economy.
Transitioning from plastic bottles to cartons for liquid food, beverages, and household goods Elopak would yield significant and immediate reductions in plastic usage and greenhouse gas emissions, while also supporting the circular economy.
Numerous businesses are already recognizing the sustainability advantages of cartons over plastic bottles said Elopak’s CEO.
A world where milk, juice, dish soap, and fabric softeners come in low-carbon, renewable cartons is not only desirable but entirely feasible.
The carton industry requires the support of organizations like UNEP to embrace this challenge and revolutionize packaging for the better; Elopak’s CEO.