Some 65 percent of decision makers at Fortune 500 consumer product companies view packaging sustainability as a high priority, according to research commissioned by the Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute.
The challenge for consumer products firms, according to the research, is the lack of meaningful information available to evaluate and compare the sustainability performance of competitive packaging materials. Packaging executives define sustainability as the way individual materials contribute to the environmental and social story of products and brands. Key contributors to determining sustainability include recycling and the energy required to transport, store, use and dispose of the packaging. Secondary considerations include the greater societal, environmental and community impacts related to the materials themselves, the study says.
The SMDI is set to launch a national education campaign aimed at highlighting what it calls “the depth of steel’s leadership” in meeting the sustainability needs of the packaging industry. Steel is currently the preferred packaging material for more than 1,500 variations of food, pet food, paint, household products, health and beauty products, it says.
According to the SMDI, steel saves energy, ensures safe nutritious food, minimizes food waste and increases economic efficiencies. The group also says:
- Across all markets, steel is the worlds most recycled material, more than all other materials combined.
- Steel cans are the most recycled food package with a 71 percent recycling rate.
- Steel food cans are more than 30 percent lighter than 25 years ago.
The steel packaging campaign will continue through 2013 with online education sessions for professionals, industry-wide surveys about steel packaging and viral videos that share the positive economic, environmental and social benefits resulting from the use of steel in consumer packaging. The group has launched a website and will give presentations at future packaging industry events.
In 2011, the SMDI released results of a three-year program to develop steel-intensive designs for electrified vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycle. The results of the FutureSteelVehicle program includes steel body structure designs that reduce mass by more than 35 percent over a benchmark vehicle, and reduce total life cycle emissions by nearly 70 percent.