Plastic Packaging Innovations Help Lighten Its Footprint

Packaging machine with a plastic bottle

Innovations in plastic packaging frequently help reduce the amount of materials used to package food and everyday products. This often results in lighter packaging, less fuel to transport products, reduced use of natural resources, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less waste—a lighter environmental footprint.

Here are some examples:

Ecolean Liquid Packaging: These plastic pouches used for liquids such as milk and juice can cut packaging weight by more than 50 percent. Flat as an envelope when not filled, they take up little space in transit to food companies and when discarded. Made with polypropylene and polyethylene plastic, the pouches use as much as 85 percent less energy to manufacture than conventional packaging, according to Ecolean.

Bertolli® Pasta Sauce Pouches: These microwavable pouches use 70 percent less material compared to glass jars and take up significantly less space in trucks, especially when shipping unfilled packaging. Made from plastics and other materials, one truckload of unfilled pouches equals 25 truckloads of unfilled jars, leading to less energy use and fewer emissions.

Eco Pack Green Box: The Eco Pack is an innovative, reusable container for shipping and displaying produce, meat, baked goods and other foods. An easy-to-assemble plastic frame and plastic sleeves create a durable, stackable flat or tray that is half the weight of cardboard. According to the manufacture, Eco Packs use up to 90 percent less energy than existing packaging and fit into existing distribution methods (pallets, containers, trucks), from farm to store.

Prilosec OTC® Pack: Tamper-resistant blister cards made with plastics and other materials are designed to conveniently dispense one dose of medication at a time.  This pill pack was redesigned to double the number of pills on the card, so one course of treatment would fit on one card, cutting down on packaging waste. It’s compact, lightweight and durable to help protect the pills from contamination or breakage during shipping.

Plastic Wine Bottles: Some wines are sold in handy, shatter-resistant plastic bottles. The plastic is much lighter than glass, so these bottles are easier to tote to events. As an added plus, the lighter weight means less energy is needed to ship bottles. And, of course, the plastic bottles can be recycled after use.

Eco-Shape® bottles: Bottled water companies have put their plastic bottles on a bit of a diet. Companies such as Nestlé®, which sells numerous brands of water in its Eco-Shape® .5-liter bottle, have significantly reduced the amount of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic in the bottles—by as much as 60 percent since the mid 1990s. The Eco-Shape® bottle is lighter and requires less energy to make, which also results in a reduction in CO2 emissions. (Tip: remember to replace the caps when you recycle your bottles. Recyclers want bottles and caps!

Christopher Ranch® Garlic: Christopher Ranch® now sells its garlic in re-closeable plastic bags. The bags use 80 percent less material than traditional jars, according to Christopher Ranch®, and can be shipped more efficiently since they are lighter, which reduces energy use and emissions during transportation.

Innovations in plastics never stop, and many of today’s innovations enable us to do more with less—and that’s good for the environment.