|Drivers for PIQET|
Packaging design is the domain of packaging technologists who are responsible for developing packaging for new products or variations of existing products (line extensions). Packaging technologists work with: packaging suppliers to screen and develop new packaging formats; marketers to ensure the packaging portrays the right marketing message; logistics and supply chain managers to ensure it is robust and efficient within the distribution chains; and, product developers to ensure product preservation, shelf-life and function. They must also consider internal and external environmental policies and regulations.
Environmental analysis of packaging design has largely been neglected in business decision making. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a scientific and internationally recognised methodology that has been used for several decades to improve understanding of the enviornmental life cycle impacts of material production, selection, use and disposal. Most companies, however, have limited access to available information on the life cycle impacts of their packaging and no straightforward scientific way of strategically addressing packaging system sustainability.
In Australia there is an urgent need to develop an environmental assessment tool that signatories to the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) can use in their packaging development process. Existing tools are either; too advanced and prohibitive in terms of cost and turnaround time (especially for products in the fast moving consumer goods category), not packaging specific or are too simplistic. This need is now rapidly growing internationally.
To demonstrate that credible, rapid, life-cycle based assessments of packaging design are possible, SPA joined forces with sponsors Cadbury Schweppes, Lion Nathan, Nestle Australia, MasterFoods Australia and New Zealand, and Simplot Australia to develop PIQET. Financial support was also provided by Sustainability Victoria, and the Australian government through the Department of the Environment and Water Resources and, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.
Development of PIQET
The PIQET project began in November 2004 with the aim of demonstrating, through direct application to sponsoring company case studies, that rapid and credible environmental assessment can be performed for food packaging systems within the Australian context.
A prototype tool was developed to confirm the algorithms, data requirements and road-test the functionality. Following successful development of the prototype, a web-based tool was commissioned and is now undergoing its final stages of validation.
The web-based tool will be more widely available through subscriptions in mid 2007 and a pipeline of future tool enhancements and improvements have been identified to expand its application.
The SPA team brings together Australia’s leading research institutions in evaluating packaging system functionality, environmental performance evaluation (including LCA) and packaging system (eco)design, backed up with recognised expertise and capabilities in supply chain integration, intermodal transport systems, active food packaging, transport packaging dynamics, polymer (re-) processing technology, consumer behaviour, operational management, environmental accounting within their respective institutions.
To complement its research capacity, the SPA team includes specialists in research and innovation management and technology transfer. The team has proven skills in developing research strategies, defining and managing research projects spanning the research continuum from basic through to commercial research projects, building research capability in public and private sector environments and translating research outcomes into practice.
Through their extensive national and international networks these capabilities are able to access the widest possible range of research capabilities and expertise in packaging technological, environmental, social and economic disciplines. These dedicated research capabilities are available to assist organisations to define, develop and deliver research that addresses their business needs.