Packaging is a unique industry and often not top of mind to everyday people. However, it plays an important role influencing consumers with every purchasing decision in addition to having major impacts on the environment and climate change. In this study the use of assessment tools was examined to identify environmental impacts of packaging and how sustainable packaging design provided solutions to those impacts. Several research questions were identified and addressed regarding media influence, specific environmental impact indicators, existing assessment tools such as life cycle assessments, and a policy evaluation for producer responsibility. An extensive literature review was conducted regarding the four research topics to provide findings on flexible packaging, one of more visible packaging types to everyday consumers that represent environmental challenges. A fifteen-question online survey was sent to twenty experts in the packaging field to gain their insights on the four major topics. The results of the survey and analysis were compared to the literature review findings to answer the overall research question. Media influence does occur amongst consumers as well as the expert decision makers on the issue of packaging impacts especially regarding recyclability. Assessment tools for packaging were effective at addressing the harmful environmental and climate impacts of packaging. These tools helped to highlight sustainable packaging development and design solutions, in addition to better communicate these findings to the public. Finally, the responsibility of packaging impacts was debated, however Extended Producer Responsibility programs were implemented in several states in the US where the success of that tactic is not yet determined. Addressing these research problems on packaging will help consumers understand a piece of the environmental equation that affects their everyday lives that is not communicated fully enough to the public.
Sustainability, packaging, environmental assessment, extended producer responsibility, life cycle assessment, packaging design, climate impact