Retail still focuses on bio packaging
That said, there are nevertheless several advantages for retail, which argue in favor of bioplastics use. Compostable food packaging for instance has already been used comprehensively. Bags and trays made of biodegradable bioplastics for example are especially well suited for fresh products like fruits and vegetables. Since they are more breathable than conventional synthetic materials, they enable a longer shelf life. What’s more, they can be disposed of through composting and fermentation along with leftovers. Tote bags made of bioplastics are already available in retail all over Europe.
Despite the lack of ecological benefits, retail uses bioplastics, since they have positive characteristics important to retailers. Today however, this does not solve the problem of an unchanged environmental impact. However, one entirely different factor results in the impact being somewhat attenuated at least in Germany: today’s German consumers are extremely environmentally conscious. Internationally, Germans are already role models when it comes to the use of plastic bags. Compared to other nations, the number of consumed plastic bags is comparatively small and customers regularly bring their own bags to shop at supermarkets. In addition, plastic bags are not a disposable product in Germany –consumers on average use their bags four to five times before they throw them away.
The era of plastics in packaging is still not over
Plastic is still in great demand for packaging. However, the problem of recycling and disposal still remains because of it. The search for alternatives continues. Some are already known, but they have pros and cons of their own. Glass for instance can be used many times and is recyclable, but is very heavy compared to other packaging material. Paper, carton and cardboard on the other hand have a reduced carbon footprint compared to synthetic materials, but cannot be used in all areas due to their lack of stability. Aluminum and tin can also be recycled well, but especially in the case of aluminum, the verdict is still out on what impact it has on health.
However, the following continues to apply: retailers and the packaging industry have to follow the needs of consumers when they implement new trends and keep the entire value chain in mind. However, the continuing development work also has one important advantage – there are always new innovations and those who discover and implement the new solutions first, increase their competitiveness significantly.
Daniel Stöter, EuroShop.de