Progress in green packaging demands a ban on single-use items

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As the freight industry re-evaluates its carbon footprint, turning to green alternatives like paper and cardboard, they should be focusing more attention on a reduction in single-use items.That’s the view of Eric Axelrad, group technical manager at ISO Moulders, which specialises in the manufacture of moulded expanded polystyrene.

“Single-use bottles, packets, straws, cups and takeaway boxes are all pushing us in the wrong direction in terms of sustainability. What people don’t see is the total cost of “green” alternatives because a lot of the problem is hidden by the overall cost of biodegradability.” Green packaging is on everyone’s agenda at the moment, says Axelrad.

“We’re all familiar with the three Rs – Reduce, Re-use and Recycle, but we need to focus more on reduction of single-use items and the only way we can do that is to ask ourselves if the item is truly necessary. There’s a perception that the solution to a waste-free world is anything but plastic – the only thing people are considering is biodegradability.

But green packaging is so much more than that.” At ISO Moulders, he says, the focus has been on creating an alternative packaging solution – EPS polystyrene. ”It has lower energy requirements, it is 96% air, requires lower water usage, is 100% recyclable, it’s lightweight, and has no CFCs. In addition, the raw material is a by-product.”Axelrad points out that just because cardboard is biodegradable doesn’t automatically make it the greenest option.

“The energy and water inputs are high and the raw material is trees. While the costs remain unseen, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a footprint. “Plastics have had a lot of bad press recently due largely to irresponsible use, especially single-use cups and takeaway containers– but some of the alternatives are even worse; we just won’t see the damage directly. We can only win when we start to reduce our own footprints and choose the best material for the job. Every person and process has a footprint, the point is to minimise it, reduce single-use items, and create circular economies.”

– Zoë van Rooyen