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Defining sustainable packaging


Internationally there is no clarity about what constitutes ‘sustainable packaging’ and policy initiatives have focused on resource and waste reduction and recycling. The EU Packaging Directive is shifting focus towards ‘evaluating and improving the environmental performance of products throughout the entire lifecycle’.

In Australia the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) has become a focal point for facilitating continuous improvement in environmental impact of packaging (materials and systems). The NPC applies the principles of product stewardship and identifies the need to reduce impacts over the total product life cycle, but there are no clear targets or principles for sustainable packaging development.

This is a three year project which will engage with key stakeholders to develop a vision for sustainable packaging which is relevant to Australia. This vision will help to guide policy development and industry practice by helping to define packaging solutions which are environmentally responsible, commercially viable and socially acceptable. The first stage of the project has been funded by RMIT University.


Research methodology

This project is being led by RMIT. Activities undertaken to date include:

  • Preparation of an initial discussion paper called 'Towards Sustainable Packaging.pdf (428kb)' in 2002.
  • A survey of 32 industry, government and community stakeholders in 2003.
  • Dissemination of a draft discussion paper called ‘Defining Sustainable Packaging’.
  • Discussion of the survey outcomes at the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) conference in Melbourne in November 2003.
  • Dissemination of an updated paper including feedback from the ISWA conference Defining Sustainable Packaging.pdf (PDF 177kb)'
  • Preparation of a draft definition for discussion.
  • Paper presentation at the 22nd IAPRI Symposium, Campinas, SP, Brasil (May 2005) - Sustainable Packaging: How do we Define and Measure It?

Current status

The next stage of the research will involve a series of focus groups with industry, designers and consumers. Research partners are currently being sought for this stage of the research, which will be undertaken in 2004/05.

The results of this research are being used to inform the training courses and the Packaging Sustainability Toolkit©.


Further information
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