Plastic is a universal material, mass used across applications. In India packaging accounts for one third of the total plastic consumption. Despite its wide application and numerous perks, plastic has been largely misunderstood. Out of all the packaging materials available today, plastic conversion has the least environmental impact. Here are some facts supporting the point:
1. Using plastics in packaging applications requires less energy from both renewable and non-renewable energy sources than substitute materials. The energy saved is equivalent to the energy needed to fuel 18 million passenger vehicles.
2. In terms of weight, the life cycle of durable, lightweight plastic packaging, including post-consumer disposal, results in less solid waste.
3. Production of plastic packaging consumes significantly less water than alternatives, including in the waste stream.
4. The production and use of plastic packaging does not emit as much Green House Gas as other materials. The emission saved is equivalent to the emission from 8.5 million passenger vehicles.
The unique nature of plastics, with its light weight, durability, flexibility, cushioning, and barrier properties allows plastic packaging to serve its purpose more efficiently while helping to reduce a variety of environmental impacts. Despite these important benefits, recognizing the plastic waste problem in the environment is necessary.
At Manjushree we are working to build a more circular economy by using our plastics resources more efficiently, capturing and repurposing more post-use packaging, advancing recycling and recovery, and developing new transformative business models. We understand that the real challenge is in the end-of-life management of this wonder material.
The first step we have taken towards solving the plastic waste problem is addressing it right at the inception.
Design thinking for product life improvement
The design thinking process for product life improvement is a user-centric process. It involves redesigning plastic packaging to better its usage for consumers while making it more environment friendly.
We do this in two ways, one reduce plastic in the design stage by light weighting or by redesigning to reduce eliminable packaging components and two improve the design to extend the useful life of the product, reducing the waste going to the landfills.
An example of our commercial plastic waste reduction-oriented design projects is the Protective Ring on Kinley 20-liter bottles.
The Kinley Protective Ring
The protective ring was a design conceptualized and tested in collaboration with Kinley. Kinley water exemplifies purity. The task at hand was to improve the life of their 20 liter bottles and protect them from deformity caused due to rough handling by transporters through the multiple cycles of usage. The design of the protective ring around the shoulder and the base of the bottle was therefore conceptualized to embody ease of use. We also wanted to help Kinley deliver their sustainability promise.
The resulting ring was injection molded in HDPE material to provide sturdiness and was designed in a manner that it fits snuggly to the shoulder and base of the 20 liter bottles, making it sturdier for the transporter to roll the bottles when they load and unload it on their vehicles, for multiple cycles of usage. The HDPE material design makes the ring easily recyclable once it reaches its end-of-life. The finished look of the ring in blue color reflects Kinley’s brand presence.
Redesigning packaging for a lighter footprint
We have taken multiple plastic reduction projects in our 40 years plus of existence. Light weighting of packaging is one of our most actively followed plastic reduction efforts. Our unique designs towards light-weighting are already proven like Super Shot Neck Jars/Caps is our patented design. We have introduced lightweight preforms with reduced neck height, that reduced the weight of the finished preform by 1.4 grams while maintaining the same blow ratio.
Technologically we have tested production of packaging using modern material science like the Foaming Technology. The foaming technology reduces the weight of containers by upto 20 percent depending on the application, while maintaining the same barrier properties and tensile strength. Our advanced, lightweight plastics used in multiple products leave a lighter footprint.
With our extensive experience in converting plastics and borrowing from the various industry researches, we conclude that when compared to alternatives, the environmental cost of using plastics is nearly four times less than the costs of other materials. Switching out plastics in consumer products and packaging with alternatives that perform the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to approximately $533 billion annually as identified from a recent life-cycle analysis by the ’America’s Plastic Makers Alliance’.
In addition to expanding ways to recover and repurpose plastics, design changes can further reduce the environmental footprint of plastic packaging. Plastics and plastic packaging play a far more positive role in the quest for sustainability than most people recognize. Design thinking for plastic reduction is our responsibility as packagers to make this universal material, environmentally sustainable.