The fight to replace polystyrene packaging
Analyzing the impact of environmental groups on corporate sustainability
Environmental groups are winning the fight to replace polystyrene packaging with more sustainable alternatives. By calling out industry leaders, advocacy groups like As You Sow have inspired sustainability campaigns and forced a widespread shift to eco-friendly packaging materials.
The New Plastics Economy
In January of 2017, the Ellen McArthur Foundation with the World Economic Forum (WEF) launched a sustainability initiative titled The New Plastics Economy: Catalyzing Action. The focus is to “rethink and redesign the future of plastics” by establishing circular economies and eliminating unsustainable materials. Replacing polystyrene packaging became a central goal of the campaign, as EPS represents a significant source of plastic pollution and a huge problem for our environment.
“The Ellen MacArthur report says replacement of PVC, EPS and PS would enhance recycling economics and reduce their potential negative impact,” explains a Sustainable Brands article. The initiative galvanized public support, bringing to light scientific evidence of the environmental problems with polystyrene and it successfully pushed companies to join the sustainability trend instead of resisting change and sticking with unsustainable methods.
15 industry leaders, including Coca-Cola, Danone, L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble, and Unilever endorsed the report, siding with the environment over short-term financial interests. By throwing their support behind “The New Plastics Economy,” these companies ratify the decision to replace polystyrene packaging in their supply chains. Since then, these global brands have experimented with new eco-friendly packaging processes and instituted sustainable alternatives.
Unilever, for example, committed to using 100% recyclable plastic packaging by 2025, eradicating polystyrene from its packaging supply chain. “This leaves polystyrene (PS) out in the cold,” writes the Independent Chemical Information Services (ICIS). Danone has also pledged to phase out its usage of polystyrene in efforts to improve the reusability and recyclability of its packaging.
The success of As You Sow
As You Sow is another non-profit environmental advocacy group that has become an active leader in the fight to replace polystyrene packaging. They directly lobbied Amazon, McDonald’s, Target, and Walmart, asking for the elimination of polystyrene foam cups and packaging products. By filing shareholder proposals with each of these brands, they leveraged the growing wave of support for corporate sustainability and brought the fight to replace polystyrene packaging to the doorsteps of these industry leaders.
As You Sow’s pleas were met with widespread support and sustainable action. All of the companies they originally filed proposals with have announced sustainability campaigns. McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts both have removed their foam cups from domestic use, upon request by the environmental organization. Target has also promised to improve its environmental impact by “eliminating expanded polystyrene” by 2022 from its packaging materials and working towards a “packaging-waste-free world.”
In fact, Amazon and Walmart now find themselves in a competitive race to phase out single-use plastic packaging. The contest not only illustrates the importance of these environmental action groups, but it showcases the market power of the sustainability movement. Akhil Saxena, Amazon India’s Vice President of Customer Fulfillment, explained to CNN Business that investments in sustainability have a triple impact: protecting the Earth, helping their customers, and fueling business growth.
Replacing polystyrene is a win for the planet
Sustainable action groups like As You Sow and think-tanks like the Ellen McArthur Foundation have created a global movement away from EPS packaging. However, environmental advocacy is only half the battle – the other half is creating sustainable packaging solutions with the lowest environmental impact and capable of protecting products during shipping.
That’s where we come in. EPE USA has 5 decades of packaging experience and we apply our learning and expertise in the fight to replace polystyrene packaging. Our packaging solutions utilize multi-impact cushioning foams, including polyethylene and polypropylene material, to create reusable and 100% curbside recyclable designs. By reducing material usage we eliminate waste, cut down on carbon emissions and generate efficiencies throughout the supply chain that reduce material costs, freight costs, labor and assembly, warehousing, and storage costs.
In order to provide our customers with the perfect package, we need to fully understand our customer’s supply chain and their product’s entire transit ecosystem. We then utilize our comprehensive knowledge to design and engineer optimized packaging solutions that provide upgraded product protection and increased freight efficiencies at the lowest possible environmental impact.
Talk to one of our packaging experts today about how you can replace your polystyrene packaging with sustainable solutions.
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Photo from Creations Magazine
Photo from Walmart.com