BY DENNIS SALAZAR
Longtime contributor and sustainable packaging expert Dennis Salazar, President of Salazar Packaging in Chicago, begins 2009 with a focus on recycling.
When the seven R’s of sustainability were first published, people were quick to select one as their personal favorite, usually with the sincere belief that their R of choice was the key to the environmental fix. The six, wildly popular R’s were:
Remove – getting rid of excess packaging was an obvious and dramatic choice no one could possibly dispute plus it made for great press.
Reuse – the favorite of green minded people who take great pleasure in making lamps out of milk cartons and other creative sustainable solutions.
Reduce - minimizing packaging is always a great idea and can be accomplished more easily than most people think. Another popular R for the masses.
Renew – packaging products that are renewable was instantly the favorite of the techies in the group that believe science has an answer for everything that ails us and our planet.
Revenue – packaging that is cost effective. The natural choice of the purchasing professionals, accountants and CFOs everywhere.
Read – taking time to educate ourselves and others. A good option for most, especially if info gained makes for good cocktail party or sales call conversation.
I believe the seventh R that has attracted less attention and interest by far is - recycle.
“Hmmm. That’s going to require some effort on my part.”
You can almost hear the wheels turning and excuses churning as people quickly realized that all of the other R’s for the most part required effort by someone other than them. “Let the designers, manufacturers, engineers, chemists and marketing people fix the earth, fix it quickly and accomplish it in a way that requires minimal effort on my part”.
Obviously I am having some fun with this topic but there is some truth in even the wildest exaggeration. The fact is that many people are still waiting for the government, science, big business, or somebody/anybody else to come up with a cure for the environment. The ideal solution of course would be one that would result in minimal change and disruption in my life.
Green Packaging question - How much do we recycle?
The short answer is, not nearly enough. I see a few more recycle bins being used in my neighborhood, and that is obviously a good thing. It would be better if everyone was forced to participate and I hope that time will come. I realize small children are being educated on the environment and the concern and lesson appears to extend beyond a classroom project of picking up litter in the playground or planting a tree on Earth Day.
Follow the Garbage of Eco-Friendly Packaging
Detectives often say “follow the money” but it this case, you can usually follow the garbage to find the crime and the criminal. It is the same thing we advise clients when doing a sustainability audit or are working to reduce their packaging costs.
On a recent flight I heard the usual “prepare for landing” message from the cockpit which was immediately followed by three flight attendants quickly collecting empty plastic water bottles and aluminum cans, as well as loads of newspapers and magazines from the passengers eager to let someone else deal with it. I watched as the crew dumped everything into plastic bags before final approach. To be honest, those bags filled with valuable, easily sorted consumer waste, may indeed be sorted later but I am willing to bet they are not and will eventually wind up in a landfill.
According to most sources I found, on an average day there are close to 30,000 domestic, commercial flights. I am not sure what that translates into in terms of recyclable waste that is not recycled but I am certain it is a lot.
There are many, way too many, examples like this and we as green minded consumers have to let the guilty culprits know that we notice and care about what they are doing. That is the only way to bring about the change that is required to help fix the big problem we all helped create. In the mean time it would not hurt to be a little more diligent on our recycling efforts at home.
Recycled, Sustainable Packaging Materials: Great idea for someone else’s use.
There are times when I mention the fact that our corrugated boxes or some other product we offer is made of 100% recycled material and I can see the slightest upturn of a nose or a poorly hidden grimace. Even though everyone is theoretically in favor of recycling and simple logic tells us that we obviously have to use what we recycle, there are still some negative perceptions that have to be overcome. “Products made of recycled material are not as safe, clean, strong, cost efficient or _______ “(Insert favorite inaccurate information here)
There are people that still think the phrase “recycled content” is synonymous with substandard or inferior and nothing could be further from the truth. In packaging, as long as the correct size, grade, thickness, weight for a specific application is used, the product being shipped, protected, contained or bundled, does not really care if the material is recycled or not. As long as the product works, who cares where it’s been and by all means, please feel free to test it alongside your high quality, higher cost, standard, non-green packaging product.
There’s a Reason Why There are Seven R’s in Sustainability
I am quite sure if anyone was convinced that one R would do it, the other six would be quickly abandoned. After all, no one wants extra, unnecessary R’s, not even in a game of Scrabble. The fact is that there are seven R’s in sustainability because the problem is too big and too complex for any singular solution. The scientists and economists, as well as the designers and marketers are all going to do their part if we hope to reverse the direction of this good ship gone bad.
With all the big, good and bad headlines in 2008 and what is sure to be an even crazier 2009, let’s not forget the environmental mission is not yet accomplished and we must still focus on the basics, especially the ones we can personally and easily implement on a daily basis.
One of the easiest solutions with the greatest possible upside is still, recycling everything possible and using recycled, whenever possible.
Hope you have a happy, healthy, prosperous and extremely green 2009!
Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.
To contact Dennis, please visit his web site: www.salazarpackaging.com