Stakeholders on either side of the excess packaging issue tend to take different views.
The Packaging Council of Australia, which represents packaging suppliers, brand owners and manufacturers, maintains product packaging hasn’t increased. It argues companies are using less packaging to cut costs and that used packaging for recycling has become an internationally traded commodity – greatly increasing the incentive to recycle.
But those who have to deal with the packing materials see things quite differently.
The Waste Management Association of Australia agrees the universal goal of reducing the weight and cost of packaging is encouraging innovation, but says the increased volume of packaged goods being sold will likely counter any reduction.
This could mean added costs for consumers. The association believes that if waste volume increases so does the cost of dealing with it, and these costs will be passed on to customers.
Going green overseas
An innovative scheme called Green Dot operates in Europe for the recycling of consumer packaging.
The Green Dot symbol shows consumers that the manufacturer of the product has contributed to the cost of the collection, sorting and recycling of the packaging. Manufacturers pay a licence fee based on the type of material used in the packaging. The aim is to encourage them to cut down on packaging.
- Australian consumer packaging measured 4,424,134 tonnes in 2010, and overall 62.5% was recycled.
- About 45 million international parcels arrived into Australia in the past financial year.
- Australia Post reports that international parcels arriving into Australia grew by 56% in the 2010-11 financial year.
- In Europe, 460 billion packaging items are labelled each year with the Green Dot recycling logo.
Lucinda Curran: I buy fragile goods for work and they come bubble-wrapped and sticky-taped, and the box is overflowing with smelly static-filled polystyrene.
Craig Wilson: I bought a soft first-aid bag the other day. The bag was in a clear plastic bag in a padded envelope inside an Express Post bag. Too many bags!
Karin Griffin: We in the West need to wake up to ourselves and stop wasting valuable resources. There is necessary packaging and then there is total indulgent waste.
Peter Brown: We hate the ever-increasing layers of packaging that the simplest things come in, such as soap wrapped in greased paper, cardboard and plastic.
Kylie-Dean Paget: Quite a few online shops don’t have enough packaging. When they just use heat/shrink wrap, the item always arrives damaged, and often if the item has clear plastic windows on it, the heat from the wrapping melts the plastic on the item and makes it useless to give as a gift.