By Ron Cotterman
Vice President, Sustainability
TAKING A SYSTEMS APPROACH
With all the focus on packaging end of life, we sometimes lose sight of the role that packaging plays in making supply chains work better and deliver products that delight consumers.
A supply chain is a complex combination of a wide range of individual components that make the entire system work efficiently and effectively. Optimizing one of those components, without understanding impact on the overall system, can sometimes lead to unexpected and unfortunate effects.
Take the food supply chain for example. Moving perishable food from the point of production to where it is consumed requires a wide range of capabilities such as transportation, storage, refrigeration—and packaging. Therefore, when looking at packaging, it is vital to consider the role packaging plays in the overall supply chain, rather than narrowly focusing only on the end of life.
I recently presented several examples demonstrating the critical role which packaging plays in fresh food distribution. They illustrated the importance of physical protection in the case of a cooked ham, prevention of product spoilage for fresh pasta, and extension of shelf life with improved logistics for case-ready fresh meat products. In these cases, the packaging ensured that the food made it safely and in perfect condition from farm to fork – ensuring that all of the resources used to produce, transport, store, and prepare that food were used effectively and efficiently.
The packaging industry understands the tradeoffs that must be managed across a full life cycle and is taking important steps to both optimize the efficiency of supply chains and address needs for improved recovery of packaging at end of life.
For a more in-depth view of the role that packaging plays in various supply chains, please review several AMERIPEN publications on the value of packaging for poultry, e-commerce and fresh produce supply chains.
Note: The conclusions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or Sealed Air Corporation. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AMERIPEN, its members, or affiliates.