Storopack like many companies, have seen an increase in demand to supply the e-commerce market through its distribution partners. However, 2020 exceeded all forecasts as the global pandemic drove sales online, and according to data from the IMRG total online sales growth in the UK rose by 36.6% year-on-year in 2020.
Changes in consumer attitudes
Storopack previously saw a shift towards paper products, perceived to be more sustainable than plastic, but during the pandemic sales of plastic protective packaging soared. In the UK, Storopack saw an increase of 42% in 2020 against the previous year.
Pre-pandemic there was huge media focus on plastic, particularly in the packaging market. As a supplier of both paper and plastic products Storopack’s approach has always been to promote an objective and fact-based assessment of plastics. Based upon their own research on the environmental impact of different materials throughout the supply chain they are confident in the sustainability of the products they supply. By working closely with their distribution partners and order fulfilment centres, Storopack continue to remain well-informed and able to meet the growing demands of consumers for sustainable packaging.
Last year saw an interesting shift in the attitude of consumers. From seeing plastic as an unnecessary and wasteful packaging material, they were now looking for their goods to be displayed and delivered safely and hygienically. Being a supplier to medical and pharmaceutical companies across Europe, Storopack have long championed the hygienic properties of plastic. Of course, there was also a large element of apathy as people became more concerned about getting their goods and less on how they were packaged.
The packaging industry must lead the way
As an international, family-run company and leading system and service supplier for flexible, tailored protective packaging, Storopack provides recycled and sustainable products for a wide range of industries and applications. With the majority of its products manufactured in-house and multiple production locations in 68 locations in 19 countries, customers are guaranteed a local sustainable supplier.
With the rapid change in attitudes that reinforces the responsibility of sustainability on manufacturers, relying on consumers to responsibly recycle and dispose of packaging needs to be supported by the industry which must also be accountable for the materials available on the market. According to the latest Global Commitment Progress Report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, recycled content in plastic packaging products has increased by 22% in 2019 v 2018. However, this still only represents 6.2% as a total so clearly there is much work to be done. Currently over 30% of Storopack’s products are made from renewable or recycled materials and by 2025 this share will increase to over 50%. As part of this strategy Storopack offer AIRplus®, a range of air cushions that are 100% recycled (50% post-consumer and 50% post-industrial waste) as well as its standard range of air cushions made from at least 50% recycled materials. Both products fulfil part of the company’s circular economy strategy for using plastic waste.
The general public cannot be expected to understand all the factors that impact the sustainability of a product, such as water and energy usage in manufacturing, or fuel usage for heavier products. However, Storopack are in a position to carry out this analysis and ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to produce materials with the least environmental impact, from cradle to grave.
Ultimately, consumers have very little choice of what packaging their products come in. It is the responsibility of the retailers, third party logistics and packaging suppliers to ensure their procurement departments understand the importance of choosing the most sustainable products over the least expensive. As manufacturers it is their role to educate business partners and ensure all packaging is clearly marked with recyclability, compostability or disposal instructions for the end-user to immediately know what to do with it.
Eco-friendly Packaging Solutions
Storopack aims to help its customers meet the demands for sustainable protective packaging from today’s consumers. It does this by offering a diverse range of recycled and sustainable protective packaging solutions. As well as AIRplus® recycled and AIRplus® BIO air cushions, the extensive range includes PAPERplus® 100% recycled papers, PELASPAN® and PELASPAN® BIO Loose Fill certified NF T51-800 home and garden compostable safe, made from starch material. Plus, FOAMplus® foam pads with Polyol B foam B component containing 30 percent recycled polyurethane.
Sustainability goes beyond packaging products
It is important for all organisations, no matter what sector, to consider sustainability as a wider subject than their product offering. Storopack are members of Alliance to End Plastic Waste, whose mission is to allow no plastic waste to enter the environment and clean up existing plastic pollution. Every year an estimated US$120 billion worth of plastic is lost to the economy after a short first use with only an estimated 14% of plastic packaging collected for recycling from the Ellen Macarthur foundation research. The majority ends up in incineration, landfills or in the environment, including open dumps. All Storopack’s locations worldwide, have committed to the objectives of Operation Clean Sweep setting themselves the goal of preventing any plastic particles used at production facilities from finding their way into the environment through water. As such, they are making an important contribution to preventing granule loss in the plastics value chain. Through the locations of their Molding-Division in Germany, they are a certified member of the Zero Pellet Loss initiative of the German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films. The company also has a long-term climate strategy for developing and implementing concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gasses through climate protection projects across its many operations and through its expanding product portfolio of recycled and renewable raw materials playing a key role in reducing CO².
Actions speak louder than words
With so much waste already in the environment it is important Storopack looks at how they clean up the environment as well as protecting it from further harm. Another organisation they are proud to support is the ‘Big Blue Ocean Cleanup’, the international non-profit foundation. Since 2018 Storopack have been an exclusive sponsor of the coastal cleaning program and have dedicated to a long-term partnership. Big Blue Ocean Cleanup makes an active effort to raise awareness of the current state of the world’s seas and is dedicated to protecting marine life and sustainability for clean oceans and coastlines – with initiatives dedicated to cleaning beaches, removing plastic from the ocean, offering training courses and informing partners, as well as the general public. In addition to supporting Big Blue Ocean Cleanup financially, they also play an active role. For example, employees voluntarily take part in beach cleaning initiatives in the UK, and across Europe removing micro plastics and small plastic particles from beaches.
Moving forwards, it would be beneficial to join forces with other companies to actively support these environmental groups. The public perception is still that packaging, especially plastic packaging, is damaging for the environment. Many packaging companies are taking steps to improve their product portfolio, which is all very positive, but if there is going to be a change of attitude more widely, companies need to be doing all they can not only to minimise their impact but also take visible action by getting involved in projects globally to clean up waterways and public spaces. Companies need to have a real passion for making a difference and not just view sustainability as a good PR opportunity. By creating a culture of caring about the environment the flow of plastic waste can be stemmed for the future.
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