blog: The packed world of packaging |

blog: The packed world of packaging

Pallavi Mukerjee
Vail CO, Colorado

Packaging is the wrapping material around a consumer item that serves to contain, identify, describe, protect, display, promote, and otherwise make the product marketable and keep it clean.

Goal of Packaging: The goal of packaging to protect the goods we purchase from wastage and damage. Without packaging, handling some products maybe messy, inefficient and costly.

Forms of Packaging: Packaging comes in many forms; convenience foods, individually packed items, microwave-able meals, easy-opening packaging, secure packaging for hazardous chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, packaging of fresh food for transport and display, are some examples. The form of the packaging is determined by the function of the packaging which is: to a) contain, b) preserve, protect, and c) communicate information.

a) Containment packaging is necessary to contain/ hold the product securely during transportation. Faulty packaging can lead to spillage and result in losses and damage.

b) Preservation and protection packaging plays an essential role in getting products to the consumer in good condition. The product needs protection:

➢ During transport and distribution. This is typically done by cushioning (providing packaging materials) such as shredded papers, sheets of corrugated paperboard, foamed plastic or wrappings, thermoformed plastic trays or inner paperboard partitions;

➢ From climatic effects such as heat, cold, moisture, drying (through packaging) such as insulation material, thermoformed plastic, refrigeration, shrinkable or stretchable films;

➢ From hazardous substances and contamination, by tamper proof packaging, child proof closures, sealed units;

➢ From infestation by providing sealed units.

c) Consumers are reliant on packaging to communicate important information such as the ingredients, uses, manufacturer, country of origin, hazards etc.

a) Most food products are subject to biological spoilage and by decomposition caused by bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Packaging can reduce or delay this spoilage, by keeping the food fresh. (Food spoilage in the U.S. averages less than three percent, due to packaging).

b) Packaging is an effective solution to prevent theft. Packaged products are more difficult to conceal or steal.

Problems associated with Packaging:

a) Synthetic packaging can contaminate the product e.g. plastic packaging can contaminate some foods with toxic petrochemical based chemicals.

b) Packaging greatly increases the volume of waste that goes into the landfills. Packaging makes up 32 percent of the municipal solid waste stream by weight or 27 percent by volume. Overall, the packaging industry currently has a considerable net negative impact on the environment and on the health of the ecosystem (human health included).

The biggest challenge at present is to find ways to reduce packaging, and to ensure that the materials used in packaging are eco-friendly.

A lot of industries are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of packaging and are making efforts to reduce packaging in their manufacturing processes. Some examples include, Wal Mart and Honda.

More literature on their efforts can be found at the following website:

Next week, we will discuss what the community can do to practice source reduction, by reducing waste at home. We will also discuss some eco- friendly methods of packaging.

Pallavi Mukerjee can be reached at

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