How much plastic does our world need?
Plastic wherever you look: Be it in the hygienic packaging of food to prolong its lifespan, in the efficient packaging of consumer goods or in the use of modern medicine. Our lives are almost inconceivable without plastics.
And yet plastic is more and more in the crossfire of criticism and is even said to have been the inspiration for the emergence of a global movement, the Friday for Future movements. The image of a dead whale with plastic garbage in its belly is said to have grasped the motivation to initiate the climate strikes of Greta Thunberg.
We were able to discuss this topic at our Salon Z in September with two CEOs, who also deal with it professionally. Moderated by Andreas Lampl (Trend), Hans Roth, founder and chairman of the cupervisory board of Saubermacher AG, and Manfred Stanek, CEO of Greiner Packaging International, debated with a top-class audience, whether plastics are part of the solution or part of the problem.
Plastics: The core of the problem or the solution for the future?
Whether as a manufacturer, in the consumer goods industry, as a recycling company or in retailing, all players are fundamentally aware of the added value and above all, the necessity of packaging. In many areas, there are no meaningful alternatives to plastic, which is why the sustainability aspect of the very flexible and durable product must come to the fore. Compared to other packaging materials, plastics have a massive advantage: their production consumes less CO2.
At the same time, there is a public debate about the role of plastics and how to deal with it. Technical terms such as “recycling economy” or “design for recyclability” have no chance of being heard and understood in such a debate.
The solution: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle
The companies of out two Salon Z guests, Mr. Roth and Mr. Stanek, are essential parts of the future vision “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. They are both working on how the products can be recycled more easily through their design and how they can be better separated through process optimisation. This means that resources can be conserved and reused. The goal should be clear: to close the loop between production and reuse. And not only in Austria, but all over the world.
The pictures from Southeast Asia are drastic and devastating: the greatest efforts must be made here. Numerous companies and NGOs are leading the way with initiatives in the places where the effects are the greatest. On the one hand, to get the garbage problem under control and on the other hand, to give people a perspective. They are still at the beginning. Even in Austria, where the recycling rate is approx. 60%, there are of course still opportunities for optimisation and demand.
In this context, the cooperation of the companies Saubermacher and Greiner can initiate significant improvements. As always, however, it is up to the consumer how he deals with the waste and what happens to it. Plastic packaging may have an unjustifiably bad reputation – it’s largely the people who don’t know how to handle it properly.
Find an interview with Manfred Stanek, CEO of Greiner Packaging, about “Re-thinking products” here.