Sustainability packaging metrics in a developing economy

SIES Graduate School moves towards green packaging


On June 2012 at the 18th World Packaging Conference in California, Prasad Balan Iyer, assistant professor of packaging technology at the SIES Graduate School of Technology, made a presentation on green or sustainable packaging. The twelve principles presented were developed on the basic principles of green chemistry which state that the waste generated in a chemical reaction should be controlled and converted into a non-toxic, biodegradable product with the minimum environmental impact.

Speaking to Packaging South Asia, Iyer said, “Sustainable packaging is a vague concept in India, some think it to be the reduction of raw materials, while others feel environmentally certified and less energy consuming machinery means sustainable, but for all this we require a proper blueprint.”

Prasad Balan Iyer, assistant professor of packaging technology, SIES Graduate School of Technology

The blueprint involves the following steps – reduce or eliminate hazardous substances in the packaging materials; use raw material or feed stock of greener origin; select packaging material based on its disposability; create a green design, without compromising the functionality of the package; modify or substitute existing packaging material or process; make packaging machines and systems energy efficient; reduce waste generated during processing, conversion, and packaging operations; apply green logistics – reduce CO2 emissions like using shorter routes and capitalize on reverse logistics if possible; segregate and dispose waste; optimize packaging economics; comply with regulations and create awareness among consumers; and use sustainable packaging metrics and tools to evaluate sustainable packaging.

The principles of sustainability also explain the importance of taking a life cycle approach, covering the consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal. Also referred to as the cradle to grave process the twelve principles may or may not be applicable to each packaging and allied industry. Principles are positioned into the twelve house diagram which resembles a Kundli diagram, to understand the cascading effect of one principle onto other principles that can help the viewer to interpret how sustainable the process or product is.

Metrics and indicators

To recognize the product or the process in terms of sustainability a concept of metrics and indicators was developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. An indicator is used as a proxy for an issue or characteristic an organization wants to measure. It describes a concept and can express movement – positive or negative – towards a goal. A metric is used to express an indicator and is often computational or quantitative.

Most of the metrics are defined or developed according to international requirements, but the Indian scenario is different. Thus, in 2014 SIES developed the metrics and indicators for the converting industry (a purely academic research) and presented it at the 19th IAPRI (International Association of Packaging Research Institutes) World Conference on packaging.

At the 19th IAPRI World Conference, Siddhant Dwivedee made a presentation discussing the implementation of sustainability packaging metrics in a developing economy. He said, “Sustainability presents itself as a distant opportunity which is not taken up effectively at large corporations in developing and developed economies. Sustainable measures in design and process are easy to implement in developing economies where the organization structures are less defined. We came across a few case studies such as ITC Sunfeast’s delicious cookies pack where six cookies are packed in multilayer three-side seal sachets inside a laminated printed carton, that can be termed as an ‘over packaged’ product that is not doing any specific packaging function but is designed to create an illusion of a supreme product. A simple alternative to this package would be the classic thermoform tray within a
three side seal laminate structure.”

Dwivedee added that another case study shows a spectrophotometer, a simple device that instantly provides color density across the tonal range of a particular color patch and wastage of substrate, inks, energy and time can be avoided. The above examples show to some extent that sustainability is not a priority. Sustainability is a broad concept and a simple way to implement it would be through the guide post of green packaging. We have gone too far in case of biodiversity laws and other aspects which are beyond repair but a bright side still exits. Thus, sustainability needs to gain a more vital status among companies.

“In 2009 Walmart India decided to set its target for packaging neutrality by 2025 which means all their packaging material will be from recovered materials. It will also pressurize other companies and consumers will begin to demand that the package be more sustainable as the bar will be raised quite high,” concludes Dwivedee. SIES packaging faculty members are preparing for the next IAPRI conference in 2016 and hope that in the future, sustainable packaging will be less of a charitable effort and more of a priority.

The impact, resilience, and growth of responsible packaging in a wide region are daily chronicled by Packaging South Asia.

A multi-channel B2B publication and digital platform such as Packaging South Asia is always aware of the prospect of new beginnings and renewal. Its 16-year-old print monthly, based in New Delhi, India has demonstrated its commitment to progress and growth. The Indian and Asian packaging industries have shown resilience in the face of ongoing challenges over the past three years.

As we present our publishing plan for 2023, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2023 will reach 6.3%. Packaging industry growth has exceeded GDP growth even when allowing for inflation in the past three years.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 33% over the past three years. With orders in place, we expect another 33% capacity addition from 2023 to 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels have grown similarly. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

Even given the disruptions of supply chains, raw material prices, and the challenge of responsible and sustainable packaging, packaging in all its creative forms and purposes has significant headroom to grow in India and Asia. Our context and coverage engulf the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and further – to waste collection and recycling. We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers.

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