A delegation of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, led by its director Pere Fullana i Palmer, attended last week’s Sustainability in Packaging Europe 2019 conference in Barcelona to disseminate the Chair’s academic activities and professional services on the topic.
Every year, at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea, divers find ancient Greek and Roman shipwrecks lying undisturbed for centuries. Like easter eggs for scientists, its mysteries awaiting to be unveiled, once their bellies are cracked open, guess what: packaging materials.
Since the old times, with the rise of trade, any kind of product needed to be preserved and contained for prolonged storage or long trips on the road across large commercial routes. Pottery amphorae, wooden barrels, glass bottles and the like, all were the first packaging solutions of mankind.
But there is a dark side to the story of packaging. Current consumer-centric society has evolved packaging not only to contain or preserve but also to advertise and persuade. Complex textures, colours, and exotic materials wrap every product today and its irresponsible disposal is becoming a threat to the environment.
Last week in Barcelona, over 500 representatives of the top packaging companies in Europe gathered in the Sustainability in Packaging 2019, to discuss on something the ancient greeks would find astonishing: how to find a way to reduce the packaging environmental footprint and increase its sustainability.
The event, organised by Smithers, involved the presence of the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF. Its researchers, led by Dr Pere Fullana-i-Palmer together with Dr Alba Bala and PhD Candidate Ilija Sazdovski, disseminated their main research areas and engaged in networking with other delegates to explore further collaborations.
One of the product’s being introduced in the event was the new Recyclability Label (Sello de Reciclabilidad), jointly designed by the Spanish company DriadeSM and the Chair. The Label is a self-declaration by which fillers and/or packaging manufacturing companies, will be able to know the amount of packaging material available for quality recycling of their packaging.
The Chair was there not just promoting its own products and services but also helping to deepen the debate on how to tackle the packaging waste problem. Dr Alba Bala, the Chair’s expert in waste management, participated in the panel entitled “Deposit return systems, design and effect on EPR”, alongside CocaCola, EXPRA and Ball Beverages representatives.
Bala’s intervention offered the conclusions of the Chair’s scientific production on DRS systems. In a nutshell: there are other opportunities beyond DRS, capable of a significant increase in recycling rates. As a second thought, she reinforced the idea of engaging with the city dwellers before any drastic change is made in the system.
At the end of the day, the true nature of Sustainability in Packaging was to introduce new thoughts and solutions, to foster sustainability in a sector as old as our civilisation.