• Gary Robinson

Synaptic Connections Newsletter 2019 Week#38

September 16, 2019 www.Synapticpackaging.com Image - Las Terrazas Eco-Reserve, Cuba

Week#38 of 2019

Good morning!  I hope you had a good weekend, welcome back.  Last week we did not have an issue of Synaptic Connections as I was out of country with very limited internet access.  It feels good to be back and enriched with new experiences and Sustainability insights to share.

This morning we are going to talk about small packaging components.  By now you have all heard about the global movement to eliminate plastic straws.  Straws make for a very visual and tangible objective that can be broadly communicated to the public.  Further, they are in the top 10 list of plastic waste items found in our oceans.  

Let's drill a bit deeper, because there are very good reason we should eliminate the use of plastic straws and those insights carry over to other products as well.  

Plastic straws are problematic because 1) They are small, 2) They are loose items, 3) They are used on-the-go, and 4) As plastic they float in water and do not degrade in nature.  

Small items do not get captured in recycle systems.  Due to their size, they fall through the mechanized collection processes.  As a small and loose item, consumed on-the-go, they have a very high probability of becoming litter with non-conscientious consumers and through the processing of waste.  

The challenges outlined above for straws also apply to caps on bottles, candy wrappers, tamper evident shrink bands, and small blister pack cards.  As consumers and packaging developers what are some best practices to address these concerns?

For one, elimination is a a very smart play.  Simply don't use them if that is an option.  For packaging developers, we really like the use of integrated systems that eliminate the smaller components.  The example of the 'sippy-cup' style lid used by Starbucks is great case study.  These simple moves are not only eco-friendly, they are also cost effective and simplify the supply chain.  With the 'sippy-cup' lid, Starbucks not only eliminated the straw, they also got rid of a component in their inventory.  That is LEAN engineering.

Another best practice for engineering is to integrate the small components with another larger part of the packaging system.  As an example, this might be a hinged lid.  As a great case study, look at what the Aluminum can industry did back in the early 1970's with the integrated opening.  Prior to that design change, the world was being littered with small, sharp, metal pull tabs.

For face blister style package, a clamshell design would be a better structure, or a trapped blister configuration where the materials are not cross-contaminated.

So next time you are at your favorite restaurant, bar, or resort - please skip the straw.  When enjoying a plastic bottled beverage, please put the plastic cap back on the bottle for recycling, and always be mindful in the disposal of small parts.  These are the most likely candidates that will end up in our water and oceans.

Packaging Sustainability//

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