Lightweight Packaging & The Environment

Loving Lightweighting

An economic and ecological dream

Developing lighter weight packaging is part of a global trend to create more sustainable packaging that uses less material and costs less.

This process, known as lightweighting, can have a ripple effect of benefits throughout the packaging supply chain. Cutting costs by using less material, but without sacrificing performance, can ultimately lead to a smaller grocery bill for consumers.

For example, on a typical delivery run of glass jars filled with yogurt to a grocery store, 36 percent of that yogurt truck’s weight can be attributed to the glass containers alone. By converting to flexible plastic packaging and lightweighting the packaging, shippers are able to cut that container weight to less than 4 percent, allowing delivery of the same quantity of product with two trucks rather than three.

Since lightweighting uses less material, there is also less energy used to produce material overall.

It shouldn’t be associated with “skimping” on material or faulty packaging, though. Thanks to advances in plastics technology, packagers can rely on materials to be leaner yet still hold strong. In fact, a 1-liter plastic detergent bottle circa 1970 weighed 120 grams. Now? 43 grams, and without losing functionality.

Developments such as these will be crucial as the world grows and sustainability plays a larger role. Luckily, plastic packagers have already shown an ability to adapt. From 1999 to 2004, global plastic consumption grew 20 percent yet the packaging industry was able to limit its material usage growth to 4 percent over the same time frame.

It is predicted that 9.6 billion people will walk the earth in 2050. From water to fresh produce to meat packaging, plastics will play a large role in their everyday lives. In a world with finite resources, it’s crucial that we look everywhere for opportunities to use less raw material and less energy while at the same time continue to improve packaging quality.

Did You Know?

  • 61 million tons of CO2 emissions are prevented on average by using plastic packaging over other materials. (source: Plastics Europe)
  • 40 percent more fuel efficiency is achieved with United Parcel Services’ composite plastic delivery trucks versus their aluminum counterparts. (source: New York Times)
  • 0.381 millimeters was the thickness of an average aluminum can in 1970. Through lightweighting that has been reduced to about 0.10 millimeters today. (source: Carnegie Mellon University)
  • 60 percent less plastic material is required today for Nestlé Waters North America’s half-liter bottle thanks to lightweighting technology over the last 20 years. (source: Beverage World News)
  • 1,643 kWh of energy is saved for every one million 2-liter PET bottles produced with just two less grams of material. (source: WRAP UK, Retailer Innovation Final Report)
  • 20 percent less fuel consumption in an Airbus 380 thanks to 25 percent of the aircraft consisting of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic composites. (source: Airbus)