The shortest route to a good sustainability scorecard is source reduction.
New resins get the job done using less wall thickness in packaging applications. There is a definite trend towards using less, albeit slowly.
So what is holding back adoption of thinner packaging even after the efficacy of a thinner package has been proven through drop tests and shipping tests ?
Based on my own observations and experience, it is usually one of two fear factors:
Consumer will percieve the product as being cheaped out if the packaging is thinner. Marketing assumes this is the case without focus grouping or test marketing. For example, a very green manufacturer of organic granola who hates plastic got cold feet about using a thinner sealant layer. When you get down to brass tacks, it’s not worth taking a chance at point of sale.
It’s also not worth taking the chance that the packaging will fail during shipment. Seriously, what is your motivation to sponsor using less packaging if it fails ? If it fails you get blamed and lose your job.
We recently reduced the thickness of a frozen food bag to 3.5 mils from 5 mils. When we asked them why they were being so conservative and not cutting the gauge to 2.5 mils, they said they were happy enough and were not interested in further reductions due to the aforementioned fear factors.
If a resin is a bad actor at 3 mils it will not work at 5 mils either. If the right resin is matched to the application, less is needed. It’s that simple. Many of these resins cost more per pound than a general purpose resin. If the extruder cannot pass along the cost to the end user, what is the incentive to inventory the upmarket resin ?
Sadly, the custom of selling film by the pound impedes progress. Even after showing the math on how much less the unit cost would be through more expensive thinner film, buyers often do not agree because they are inured to price per pound. Most extruders live and die by pounds shipped, so there is not much motivation to push downgauging or lightweighting.
All parties would benefit from a more expensive plastic film per pound offset by gauge reduction.
Here is a link to make the calculating easy: