Packaging has a diverse role to play that varies with the type of product and industry it is being applied to and used in.


For example in some FMCG industries it must:

  • Protect and preserve the product, keep it in perfect condition, and be suitable for transport and storage on its way from the manufacturer to the retailer (or to consumers by mail order, or ordered over the internet).
  • Allow the name of the product, the brand owner, any warnings, and information for use to be labelled or printed.
  • Protect the contents from contamination but be easy to open.
  • Enable the product to be applied effectively.
  • It may have to be pilfer-resistant or tamper-evident.
  • It must be distinctive so that consumers looking to buy a specific product can find it easily on the supermarket or pharmacy shelf.
  • Be attractive and have shelf presence to gain the attention of consumers who have yet to decide what to buy.
  • Represent the values of the brand.
  • Designed to allow recycling or recovery and must not contain any hazardous substances.

Cosmetics packaging is also unusual in that it must also be durable as most products are in use for several weeks or months or, sometimes, years. Whether it is to be displayed on a dressing table, kept in the bathroom or in a make-up bag, consumers expect cosmetics packaging and the product it contains to stay looking good. Packaging is also integral in enhancing the performance of the product; a good example is aerosols. Plastic strapping therefore meets few of these roles which are mainly focussed on presentational qualities and consequently is rarely seen on these products, AND WHERE STRETCH AND SHRINK FILMS are seen as the preferred materials for any unitisation role needed.

The role of plastic strapping is primarily that of securing product onto pallets or as a unitiser where security and physical safety is the predominate function. Consequently it's widely used in industry sectors where presentational characteristics are not as acutely important, although it is available in a wide variety of colours and plastic strapping can be printed to present a corporate image, marketing re-inforcement and security or handling requirements.

Too much packaging?

Packaging makes up less than 3% of all waste sent to landfill and 60% of packaging from industry and households is recovered and recycled with the exception of plastic strapping which is more difficult to cost effectively collect in bulk and does not have any nationwide collection arrangements such as those that apply to household or general industrial waste. To be cost effectively collected it has to be baled or chipped, and whilst industry is well accustomed to dealing with paper and board, the relatively small quantities of plastic strapping stripped from incoming goods per location generally results in it being thrown in the collection bins with other waste. It is the case therefore that although widely used, plastic strapping is currently and likely to remain a more difficult proposition. 

The UK uses less packaging per person than most other large European Union (EU) countries and  cosmetics packaging is less than 1.5% by weight of all packaging used in the UK.

In spite of this, consumers, media and politicians frequently comment about excess or unnecessary packaging. In particular, waste has to be collected and disposed of and there is a general belief that there is just too much packaging.  Within the constraints listed above, companies are obliged to use the minimum amount of packaging, including the packaging used to transport products to retailers.

In addition, many people don’t realise that manufacturers already have legal obligations to recover and recycle packaging. The 1994 European Union Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste requires packaging to be minimised, not to contain any hazardous materials which affect recovery, and set steadily increasing targets for the amount of packaging to be recovered and recycled. But, once the recycling target has been reached, the remainder can be recovered by composting or by incineration with energy recovery. These targets and requirements entered into law in the UK in 1998.

This legal obligation is shared amongst the packaging supply chain. Importers of packaging, manufacturers of packaging, companies which put consumer products into packaging, and retailers which sell those products all have an obligation to recover and recycle a set percentage of that packaging. Although they can do it themselves, most companies join a collective scheme for a fee based on the amount of packaging in question. The collective scheme enters into long-term contracts with reprocessing companies to perform the recycling or recovery processes. These long-term contracts also provide the certainty reprocessors need to finance and expand the recovery infrastructure.

For all types of cosmetic products, companies do not use too much packaging deliberately. It is expensive and wasteful to over-package; it costs more to transport and costs more for recycling and recovery.

Why can’t all packaging be recycled?

Although recycling is often the preferred option, not all packaging can be recycled without using more resources than are saved. For example, once a cosmetic product has been sent to a retailer, it may be sold anywhere in the UK. What happens then depends on the local facilities available for recovery or recycling of packaging waste. It does not make environmental sense to transport lightweight materials such as plastic strapping long distances for recycling and other methods unless compacted.. Similarly, small containers with remnants of products can contaminate a recycling process. The UK collective scheme system allows the experts working in the recovery and recycling industry to determine the best option.

Sustainability of Packaging

True sustainability covers all aspects of a product’s life cycle:

  • where do the raw materials come from, how are they grown, mined or manufactured;
  • how much energy is used;
  • how much waste is produced and how is it disposed of;
  • what other chemicals are used and how much water;
  • what are the transport costs between the various stages of manufacturing.

Packaging protects products from damage and stops waste but it has its own supply chain life cycle as well. Manufacturers of packaging materials also try to reduce the use of energy and water, minimise waste and the use of materials, and ensure their processes have little environmental impact.


How Can I Recycle Used Packaging?

The important thing to remember is that the aim of recycling or recovery of packaging is to reduce the use of our natural resources and divert waste from landfill. However, without realising it, we can easily consume more resources than are saved by recycling. The following advice will help.


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