Over the last decade, the subject of sustainability has become a major concern for both businesses and consumers. Today’s political agenda includes raising understanding of the social, institutional, and economic dimensions of the country’s environmental impact. To ensure that businesses boost their efforts to lessen the negative environmental impact of conventional plastic packaging, a wide range of measures must be adopted. Manufacturing sustainability strategies focus on the recovery and reduction of packaging materials and waste. It must be done in tandem with the reuse and recycling of discarded garbage, as well as the reduction of hazardous packaging components. Because inappropriate packaging practices for perishable products endanger human health and the environment, as well as cost-efficiency and brand message, producers and marketers must consider a variety of safety, environmental, and health problems when establishing a package design.
Role of Packaging in Marketing
Consumer and market developments are emphasizing the relevance of packaging in communicating brand messaging (Underwood & Klein, 2002). The focus is on lowering advertising expenses so that more money may be spent on trade and sales promotion, as well as building brand awareness (Underwood & Klein, 2002). Over the last few decades, the importance of packaging as a marketing tool has grown in the industry (Underwood & Klein, 2002). During the same time span, however, academic attention to packaging was essentially non-existent and only increased in the previous decade (Underwood & Klein, 2002).
An effective package strategy communicates to the customer practical, aesthetic, and symbolic values, resulting in increased product demand and positive brand perception (Underwood & Klein, 2002). Modern consumers choose packaging materials that are environmentally friendly or even reusable. Green packaging is a tool for establishing long-term relationships with clients by stressing sustainability and “green conscience,” effectively turning environmental concerns into a selling point (Underwood & Klein, 2002). According to Plastech’s president, Edward Gustafson, “the time when people didn’t pay much attention to sustainability and thought of it as just a “window decoration” has long passed” (Underwood & Klein, 2002). Producers must now put reusability, bio-based resins, and packaging fillings at the forefront of their concerns.
Functional Properties of Packaging
Adopting suitable packaging strategies can have a substantial impact on an organization’s production process. Packaging’s main responsibilities are to protect items from deterioration and external effects, as well as to provide crucial nutritional and marketing information (Marsh, 2007). It enables producers to move their products from the point of production to the point of consumption while preserving the nutritional content and wholesomeness of the food (Marsh, 2007).
Packaging acts as a barrier to the environment’s chemical, biological, and physical impacts. It protects products from chemical impacts by reducing their exposure to gases, moisture, and light. Biological protection prevents microorganism access to the product and creates an impermeable barrier to odor transfer while preserving the package’s internal state (Marsh, 2007). The physical closure of the package acts as a barrier against mechanical damage and vibration, which are particularly dangerous during food transit (Marsh, 2007). Because of the need to improve the shelf life of foods, product packaging is growing at a rate of 13% each year (Markarian, 2014). By improving product travel safety and conserving their initial qualities, an effective packaging approach has a considerable impact on product processing (Marsh, 2007).
The use of modern packaging materials extends the shelf life of food in terms of texture, color, net weight loss, and marketability, among other qualitative features (Sahoo, Bal, Pal, & Sahoo, 2014). According to a study done by the Department of Agricultural Processing and Food Engineering, bell pepper can be maintained with the MAP packaging approach for up to 20 days, which is five times longer than ambient circumstances (Sahoo, Bal, Pal, & Sahoo, 2014). The use of various packaging strategies as well as proper storage conditions can considerably extend the shelf life of items.
Food Safety, Environment, and Packaging
Packaging is crucial to the food processing sector as a whole. Using proper procedures and preservation methods, the processing process transforms food into a consumable product in a series of stages (Mahalik, 2014). Toxins, dampness, odor, and dust exposure are all linked to food preparation. To ensure “food safety and security,” packaging, as well as sanitation and sterilization processes, should provide enough product protection (Mahalik, 2014).
Environmental sustainability is jeopardized by the insufficient utilization of package materials. Because the usage of plastic can affect the environment for a long time, it is recommended that biodegradable and “environmentally friendly” materials be used instead (Mahalik, 2014). The use of polylactide acid polymers, sugar cane pulp, or fiber composites in packaging could become a sustainable solution and an effective replacement for other waste-generating solutions (Mahalik, 2014). Chemically neutral and non-toxic alternatives to polluting packaging include wood and glass. They offer substantial protection against oxidation and spoilage while also being environmentally friendly.
Despite the fact that various types of plastics protect food from external effects such as gases and biological risks, some are linked to potential environmental problems and can constitute a serious health risk (Marsh, 2007).
Consideration of Environmental and Health Concerns in Package Design
The use of biodegradable materials in food packaging has piqued people’s curiosity in looking into alternate packaging options. The use of plastic-based materials like aliphatic polyester, also known as polylactide (PLA), for green packaging design can be very promising (Ahmed & Varsheny, 2011). It has good barrier and resistance capabilities, as well as the capacity to degrade into natural compounds via enzymatic processes (Ahmed & Varsheny, 2011). At various temperatures and humidity levels, it keeps its water vapor permeability capabilities. Furthermore, when the temperature rises, the PLA becomes more resistant to water, and its permeability drops by 75% at 25 C. (Ahmed & Varsheny, 2011). The cost of manufacturing PLA, which is now greater than that of conventional polymers, is expected to decrease as production volumes increase. Regardless of the price constraints associated with the manufacture of bio-based materials, the use of biodegradable packaging in economies of scale can become a new and promising solution to reduce the adverse environmental impact of petroleum-based packaging materials.
Packaging waste reduction is a critical component of environmental protection programs and business cost control. In the UK, the average quantity of packaging trash that is not recycled is around 10 million tonnes (White, Wang, & Li, 2014). The decrease of packaging should be one of the most serious environmental issues for the general people because it indicates social responsibility. The key focus of sustainability policies and programs should be reverse logistics, packaging material control, and trash management. Regulations aiming at reducing the presence of hazardous components in packaging materials are expected to promote interest in alternative packaging solutions.
Positive Impacts of Green Packaging Techniques
Consideration and application of green design concepts, as well as compliance with health safety criteria in packaging, can provide enterprises with several benefits. They may have a favorable impact on the environment’s long-term viability. Consumers’ perceptions of a product’s “naturalness” have a substantial impact on their purchasing decisions (Binninger, 2015). The emotive factors of packaging related to environmental attributes such as “respect for the environment” and “excellent health” explain why buyers have diverse opinions about different brands. 2015 (Binninger) According to a recent study, when a product’s packaging conveys emotional cues, the perceived naturalness of the product is much higher. 2015 (Binninger) When a packaging design expresses care for the health and the environment, it “adds to the good perception of the product in terms of trustworthiness, quality, and buy intent,” and so helps to boost consumer loyalty and competitiveness (Binninger, 2015).
Adoption of bio-based materials, reduction of packaging, and incorporation of recyclate materials for a variety of “end-of-life” solutions may not only boost the sustainability of food production but also reduce food waste (Markarian, 2014). The number of items requiring various types of packaging is increasing at a rate of 13% per year, which is directly proportional to the population increase (Markarian, 2014). Nonetheless, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that roughly 30% of global food output is wasted (Markarian, 2014). Appropriate packing strategies are linked to efficient waste management, which can help solve the issue of human health and environmental protection while also preserving natural resources (Marsh, 2007).
To avoid detrimental impacts on human health and the environment, inefficient packaging practices and the use of hazardous and non-recyclable materials in packaging must be prohibited. Biodegradable and plastic-based materials can be used in food packaging, which could be a viable answer to the challenge of sustainability. Although there are certain price constraints involved with the production of bio-based materials, biodegradable packaging is a realistic solution for reducing the adverse environmental impact of petroleum-based packaging materials. While the shift toward consumer-driven implementation of sustainable food packaging is linked to higher marketing and manufacturing costs, the literature review reveals that green packaging techniques can have a positive impact on businesses’ long-term financial performance, consumer health, and the environment. As a result, producers must strike a balance between immediate financial advantages and environmental considerations in order to meet consumer demands while still ensuring long-term industrial viability.