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Packaging - where would we be without it?

Imagine a day without any packaging. Unless you are completely self-sufficient and live off the land, from the moment you pour the milk into your morning cuppa until you brush your teeth at night, then you probably rely on packaging in a myriad of ways throughout the day.

Packaging comes in many forms and is made from various materials but, for years, plastic or polythene has been the most popular choice to protect products from moisture, dirt or contamination of other sorts.

Plastic packaging holds items in a set, confined space. It identifies products and tells us all we need to know about them. It keeps them clean and dry. It helps keep food and drink fresh. It allows us to carry and transport things. It promotes products and makes them marketable.

It is used so widely because it is cheap to produce, lightweight, waterproof and malleable, so it can easily be formed into any shape, size or style to cater for any type of product. This makes it the go-to material for packaging manufacturers the world over and is why it has become an integral part of our consumer-led society.

Premium packaging improves brand perception and increases social sharing

Social media iconsFour out of 10 online shoppers have shared a photo or video of a purchase on social media in the last year, with branded packaging encouraging them to do so, according to a new report.

A study of over 500 online shoppers, carried out by strategic logistics partner Dotcom Distribution, found that 41% were more likely to share images of their purchased product on social media if it came in branded or gift-like packaging.

Over a third of respondents said that premium packaging impacts their perception of a brand, of whom 61% said it makes a brand seem more upscale.

The report, entitled 'Unwrapping the Customer Experience', also found that 54% of shoppers have used social media in last year to find a picture or video of product thinking about buying, of whom 61% said the content they found convinced them to buy the product.

"Consumers are eager to share photos or videos of an online order they have received, especially if it comes in branded or gift-like packaging", said Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution. "Boring brown boxes represent lost opportunity. Retailers can leverage consumers as influencers to grow their brand and fuel future purchases by giving online shoppers more reasons to share their experiences."

Source: 'Unwrapping the Customer Experience' - Dotcom Distribution Packaging Report 2015

Popular types of packaging

Packaging comes in various forms. So many, in fact, that they are far too numerous to list all of them on this page. However, here are some of the most popular types of packaging used today:

Carrier Bags
The humble carrier bag helps shoppers the world over transport their goods from shop to home, whether food, clothes or other goods. They also offer a fantastic marketing solution to retailers and companies promoting themselves at conferences and trade shows.

Mailing bags
A popular product for use in postage or courier mail, offering an alternative to traditional envelopes or mailing boxes. Lightweight, waterproof and easy to use, the bags come in a variety of styles, including protective envelopes and secure tamper-evident mailers.

Bin bags
Disposable receptacles used to collect and contain rubbish the world over. Bin bags provide a convenient and sanitary method of collecting and disposing of waste and litter from home, office, garden or workplace.

Clear Polythene Bags
Plastic bags or pouches used for a variety of tasks, from packaging food to keep it fresh, protecting items for storage or transit and packaging items for day-to-day storage, including clothes, hardware, food stuffs and nick nacks.

Plastic sheeting
Popular in the building trade and with decorators and restoration experts, wide plastic sheeting is used to cover large areas of floor space to offer protection from potential damage. Also used in the building trade as an effective insulation or damp-proof membrane.

Protective packaging
Bubble wrap is the most popular form of protective packaging, used to protect delicate or fragile items in storage or transit. Also available in ready-made bubble bag from, including an anti-static alternative, alongside loose fill void packaging.

Display Bags
Used by retailers to present a variety of products, including flowers, clothes, artwork and photographs. Available in a high-clarity polypropylene that is a particular favourite for presenting luxury confectionery, biscuits and cakes.

More recycling, less waste

Plastic packaging is often viewed as the root of all evil when it comes to the environment. Landfill sites are filling at a high rate and many see unnecessary packaging as the reason for this.

However, there are a number of reasons to be optimistic about the use of plastic packaging and how it is dealt with, once used.

It is much easier to recycle now than it ever has been. An increasing number of local authorities are providing recycling facilities or collection services and the amount of products that can be recycled is also increasing year-on-year.

The 2012 UK Household Plastics Collection Survey, carried out by RECOUP (Recycling of Used Plastics Limited) found that:

  • 426,591 tonnes of plastics were collected for recycling in 2011, an increase of 19% on the previous year
  • 58% more plastic pots, tubs and trays were recycled in 2011 than the previous year
  • 9% more plastic bottles were collected for recycling in 2011 than in 2010
  • 2011 data indicates a plastic bottle recycling rate of 52% - the first time the collection rate has passed the 50% barrier
  • Collection schemes for flexibles (plastic films) are gradually being introduced across the country, with 70 local authorities (17%) offering a collection scheme
  • Kerbside schemes collected 258,545 tonnes of plastic bottles for recycling in 2011, an increase of 10.6% on 2010.
  • Kerbside plastic bottle collection infrastructure has witnessed dramatic growth between 2005 (46,918 tonnes) and 2011 (258,545 tonnes) - a 451% increase.
  • There has been a 218% increase in collection of pots, tubs and trays from 2009 to 2011.

Source: http://www.recoup.org/hppc2012/2012_survey_lr.pdf

Optimising resources

Industry experts state that plastic packaging is, in fact, a major tool in achieving a low-carbon economy, endorsing the resource-efficiency and benefits of rigid plastics packaging.

Speaking in April, Jonathan Bloom, Senior Executive at The British Plastics Federation, said: "Today's plastics packaging is up to 80 percent lighter than it was 20 years ago, whilst still maintaining the same or better technical performance.

"This is the result of technological innovation on the part of raw material producers and processors, together with forward leaps in design, tooling and processing. Whilst still ensuring packaging is able to carry out its primary function of protecting a product through all stages of the supply, distribution and use phrase.

"It is important that UK Government recognises that plastics packaging is incredibly resource-efficient and is not only responsible for a minimal use of physical resources, its durability and sealabilty protects goods from deterioration and increases their shelf life. It is an incredibly effective agent in the fight against reducing food waste."

Reference: British Plastics Federation. Read more: http://goo.gl/sJdh5G