Reducing the Impact of Plastic Packaging:
New Scorecard Helps Drive Innovation
By Tim Greiner and
You’ve developed a line of healthy, or- ganic products. Significant time, effort, and research have gone into your offerings. Your entire workforce is justifiably
proud. Your consumers love you. But your organically grown items are packaged in unsustainable petroleum-derived plastic; a material
that could incorporate toxic chemicals in its
manufacturing process that may end up in
our land, water and ultimately our bodies.
And, where does all that plastic go after
the product is consumed? Is it adding to pollution problems such as the “Great Pacific
Garbage Patch,” the swirling mass of plastic
trash twice the size of Texas caught in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre, comprised of
just some of the 2. 4 million pounds of plastic
that enter the world’s oceans each hour?
With all this, is there a way to be as proud
of the package as you are of the product?
Gary Hirschberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm
has said, “I won’t be happy until the day when
you finish eating the yogurt, you can then eat
the cup.” Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.
concerns over plastics and plastic additives—
such as PVC, BPA and phthalates—how do
manufacturers select plastics that have the
same level of integrity as the products inside?
While there are simple tools for comparing
plastics, such as those developed by Green-peace and others, these guides do not define
a method for evaluating plastics in a clear and
replicable manner or address toxic chemicals
across the material’s entire life cycle, says
Mark Rossi, research director at the nonprofit
group, Clean Production Action (CPA). To
help companies understand the true impact
of each plastic on human and environmental
health at each step of the process, and ultimately to set the standard to help drive innovation, CPA, together with consulting group
Pure Strategies, developed the “Plastics Scorecard Version 1.0.” After undergoing peer reviews from various NGOs, the beta version of
this scorecard was unveiled this past fall at the
PIRA Biopolymers Symposium. This scorecard is free and applicable to any type of plastic. Manufacturers are encouraged to use this
tool and provide feedback on how the tool
might be improved.
Version 1.0 of the scorecard looks at three
core principles for designing plastic products:
• Sustainable Resources: move to plastics
created from renewable (non-food)
resources instead of from nonrenewable
Green Chemistry: reduce the toxicity of
building-block chemicals, final polymers
and additives; and
• Closed-Loop Systems: create plastics that
are easily recycled or can be composted to
support soil health.
Rossi notes that, “The scorecard defines
for the first time what a truly sustainable
Can Plastic Be Sustainable?
While we still may be years away from an
edible yogurt cup, many companies are making great strides to reduce the impact of plastic packaging. Earthbound Farm and Naked
Juice have introduced packaging made of 100
percent post consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. Coca-Cola has also recently launched the
“PlantBottle,” made from up to 30 percent
plant-based materials, specifically sugar cane
and molasses, the byproducts of sugar
Many others are also looking to decrease
their plastic impact, but how do you know
which plastic is best? And with all the toxicity