When it comes to packaging, sustainability is one of the most important trends.
On the father of sustainability
If sustainability was an idea for a start-up, then Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645–1714) would almost certainly be one of the founders. A mining administrator in Freiberg, he formulated the concept of sustainability in forestry as follows: he believed that only so much of a forest should be felled as will grow back naturally in the foreseeable future. The principle behind sustainability is to ensure that a natural system remains intact with its essential characteristics in the long term. This approach laid the foundation for sustainable thinking and action.
On the evolution of sustainability
Today, the idea of sustainability comprises three pillars: environment, economic and social. In our industry, sustainable waste management is defined by the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. This new definition of sustainability takes the original, purely ecological concept of environmental protection a significant step further. For example, apart from the material, the production and processing technologies, the energy sources and processes employed and also social aspects are subjected to a critical examination and improved or optimized where appropriate.
In the packaging industry in particular, sustainability is held to be the key driver and influencing factor on developments in the coming decade. Various studies have reported that sustainable packaging has high relevance for one in every two consumers. According to a representative survey launched by the dvi in 2019 on the subject of sustainability, 69.5% of the German population pay attention to sustainable packaging when shopping for products.
On the beginning of the end of the throwaway society
In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, packaging accounts for around 4% of the total waste worldwide. It is responsible for approximately 1% of the global carbon footprint. Yet far more important than these comparatively low figures is the recognition that when it comes to environmental issues, packaging frequently plays a guiding, pioneering role. In 1991 Klaus Töpfer, the then German Minister for the Environment, established a legal framework for reducing the volume of packaging waste in the form of the Federal Packaging Ordinance (VerpackV), which started a trend against the impact of our throwaway society
Together with the 1994 EC Packaging Directive, the ordinance paved the way for the circular economy and the principle of product responsibility. The new Packaging Act (VerpackG), which took effect in Germany in 2019, significantly increases the targets for material recycling.
On green insights into packaging
What many people have a tendency to forget is that packaging is of great ecological value. Packaging protects key assets with relatively little effort. Around 90% of the burden on the environment from food products is attributable to the food itself – and only 10% to the packaging. If the food perishes, the damage is far greater than if it is protected with packaging. This effect is even more evident with highly complex commodities such as smartphones.
If packaging prevents a product from harm on its way to the consumer, then it is also doing a very good job from the point of view of the environment. In other words, the ability to visualize this value represents an excellent opportunity for businesses. Packaging also scores with regard to safety. After all, packaging is vital in order to transport and store chemicals, engine oil or industrial waste safely and securely – and protect the environment from toxic or otherwise hazardous substances.
On the evolution of packaging
The goal of sustainability is always to save resources. The path to this goal is through people’s minds: we need to rethink existing strategies. Overturn established principles. Top of the agenda is careful use of resources and recyclable materials. Packaging takes on responsibility here. It has meanwhile evolved into a high-tech product that delivers more and more value – with less and less input of energy and materials.
We can illustrate this with three examples: nowadays, only 40% as much energy is needed to produce container glass as was the case back in the early sixties. Compared to 30 years ago, the packaging industry can manufacture 80% more cardboard from the same amount of wood. And in the mid-fifties, a beverage can weighed four times – and a beer bottle three times – what it does today, while the weight of a PET bottle has been more than halved in the last few decades.
Yet the best news of all is that sustainability provides more opportunities for companies than ever before – and it’s up to us to identify them, visualize them and seize them together! As a dvi member, all doors are open to you: we’ll help you profit from the idea of sustainability in a sustainable way.
On the opportunities of sustainability
The dvi makes sustainability at your company successful in a sustainable way: the German Packaging Institute lends structure to your sustainability policy and offers you a whole host of ways to learn more about current sustainability issues, gain further professional qualifications, engage in a dialogue with knowledgeable people and contribute constructive ideas. Do you any questions? We’ve got answers!
On our special service: Packaging briefings
Our packaging briefings provide you with up-to-the-minute information, content and impetus related to sustainability and digitalization. Profit from relevant press reports, exclusive overviews and explanations, market news or the outcomes of cooperation with strategic partners as well as trade fair & events calendars.
As a dvi member, we give you space to focus on the essentials: our experts filter out all relevant information for you in advance, show you at a glance what’s most important and assist you with your daily work. They cover the complete A to Z of sustainability issues.
On our seminar: Design4Recycling
Our entertaining Design4Recycling seminar provides quick answers to the burning questions of today. Does Germany’s new Packaging Act generate fresh impetus? How do sorting and recovery of packaging work in practice? What does recyclable mean – and what are recyclates? Can recyclability be measured – and if so, how? Log in, take a look at what we have to offer and discover answers to the questions that confront and concern us daily. For dates as well as all important information on our seminars, see our Further Training section.
On our Meet & Show: The German Packaging Award
The German Packaging Award is presented annually by the dvi in recognition of innovative and creative packaging ideas; “Sustainability” is one of several award categories. A special prize reflects the particular relevance the dvi attaches to sustainability issues. This special “Sustainability” prize is awarded jointly with our cooperation partner PEFC.