Packaging and the Environment
Packaging is used to not only protect products and foodstuffs but also to allow for their easy transportation from where they are produced to where they are stored or sold to consumers.
Without packaging, items would be extremely difficult to handle in any great quantities as they would all fall out and roll around on the floor, probably becoming damaged as a result. Packaging is also necessary for many foodstuffs to prevent contamination, and can also provide the necessary container for a vacuum packed product where the air has been removed which greatly limits the growth of bacteria and so increases the shelf life of the product.
Unfortunately though all of this packaging creates a major environmental problem for society, as whilst it is extremely useful and effective at what it does, there is often little else that it can be used for once the item has been removed, at least in its present state. In times past nearly all of this would simply have been thrown out with the rest of the general rubbish and taken to landfill.
With a realisation that this consumption of materials and throw-out culture was unsustainable, there was a tremendous increase in the amount of recycling done, not to mention efforts by manufacturers to reduce the amounts of packaging in their products. This has tremendous benefits for the environment as not only do lower levels of raw materials need to be used to produce the packaging (trees cut down to make cardboard and paper, oil used to manufacture plastics etc), but less waste needs to be disposed of by sending it to landfill or burning it which can release harmful gases into the atmosphere.
This upturn in levels of recycling and reduction in packaging quantities was brought about primarily through a combination of environmental legislation regarding packaging quantities and greater awareness of the damage that was being done to the environment by increased media reporting and greater education including health and safety training courses such as the NEBOSH Environmental Certificate. This two-pronged attack of education and legislation has had a significant positive impact in the reduction of packaging materials.