The outcry over single-use plastic bags has led to more and more communities banning their use. But take a moment and think about how much single-use packaging encases our food, from yogurt containers to meat wrapped in saran on a styrofoam base. In a report entitled Creating a More Delicious World, Kraft Foods says that it has reduced the amount of plastic through its “innovative YES pack” for salad dressings. The company also claims that it has increased sustainable sourcing by 36 percent, decreased travel operations by 12.5 million miles and cut packaging by a total of 45 million pounds.
On the Huffington Post, Babson College professor Asheen Phansey describes how Kraft used environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) to design the YES pack. One gallon jugs made of high density polyethylene — which are easily recyclable but which are composed of only 5 percent of recycled materials — are common in the industry. But research revealed that the jugs are unwieldy to use, requiring people to scrape out the contents and even cup off the tops.
Engineers redesigned the containers to be “a significantly lighter, flexible, squeezable package made of nylon and polyethylene, branded the YES pack, which stands for yield, ease and sustainability” that delivers up to two extra servings per case. A study of the YES pack revealed that its production required 50 percent less energy during production and that it contains 60 percent less plastic. As fewer trucks were used during transporting YES-packed products, CO2 emissions were reduced by 70 percent.
Other companies using LCA to resign products and packaging are Puma, whose “Clever Little Bag” replaces shoeboxes with a reusable non-woven bag and cardboard inserts; using the bags, says the company, has reduced CO2 emissions by 10,000 tons.
Phansey quotes a Kraft engineer who worked on the YES pack, Ryan Portrey:
“Sustainability is not an afterthought anymore. Sustainability is here to stay, and we’re integrating it into our mindset from research and development through sales and marketing. We believe that it’s our responsibility to look out for our customers and the environment.”
This is excellent to hear (although you might wince as someone saying “sustainability is not an afterthought anymore” means that, until recently, it was an afterthought). Portrey speaks of Kraft “look[ing] out for our for customers and the environment” but it’s even more necessary for consumers to keep their eyes open to how companies like Kraft, Puma and so many others can create other kinds of sustainable packaging.
Salad dressing is just a start: Would stores have stopped using plastic bags if customers hadn’t raised an outcry?
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