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Packaging Up Our Future Environment

Apr 6, 2008
The pressure is on for us all to play our part in reducing land fill in the UK. We are still filling sites with five million tons of the stuff every year and this, the government says, must be reduced drastically to have any lasting effect on global warming.

One way for this to be achieved is to reduce the amount of packaging that surrounds our everyday products, with food companies being targeted more than anyone else. But what will this mean for the companies that produce the packaging machinery?

Well, if some of them are anything to go by, nothing much will happen. Supermarkets have made some changes but still want to give their customers the choice of whether or not they use plastic or easily recyclable packing products. Plastic bags are still available and one supermarket claims to have made its salad packaging thinner.

So, the packaging machinery that takes care of this is still being used in abundance, just with thinner plastic. Maybe a better idea would be to make it luminous. Then, when our salad is shoved in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge we won't forget about until the point where the contents liquefy. Every time we open the fridge door this luminous food product will be screaming at us to be used. It would also do away with the need for the fridge light, thus further saving on environmental pollution.

Packaging machinery is used every day to shrink wrap items of all descriptions. So how come all we see in the news is the shrink wrap around food being vilified? The idea is to get everyone using paper bags that are biodegradable to wrap food rather than the plastic that it usually comes in. Greener packaging - back to my luminous idea, then!

When it comes to the design of packaging machinery, what I want to know is who the hell is responsible for the packaging that refuses to be opened. Why is it necessary to wrap even the smallest item in solid lumps of moulded plastic that defy even the sharpest scissors?

Many a time my husband has been trying to open one of these awful constructions with a sharp implement and slipped. One more than one occasion we have had to make hospital visits due to an accident because of this type of packaging. Note to manufacturers - do not wrap anything in these impossible packages, then we won't have accidents and we won't have to take trips to the hospital, thus burning more fuel, thus harming the environment even more.

Newspapers and magazines use packaging machinery but there packaging is of the eco-friendly type when you look at the bulk being delivered to shops. I say why not use the Sun or the News of the World to pack them in - no-one would notice. It's those individual magazines that are delivered to subscribers that need to have their packaging changed.

Like my husbands. His Caravanning Monthly is delivered in a dark paper envelope. At least, he tells me it's his caravan magazine, maybe I'll check next time one drops through the door.

Packaging machinery is adaptable. It can wrap in thinner materials, surely it can wrap in different, eco-friendly materials too? But at the end of the day, does packaging machinery contribute towards pollution by the sheer running of it in the first place?
About the Author
Environmental expert Catherine Harvey looks at ways packaging machinery can become more eco-friendly.
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