Definition of Sustainability
A sustainable product is one which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) 1987
“Our Common Future”
Sustainability requires a system where Social, Economic and Environmental needs can be met on an on-going bases.
Social and Economic factors are generally met by a combination of legislation and Ethical Trading.
Within developed countries these factors are more readily met and so the main focus is on Environmental Sustainability.
Limits on Sustainability
It is not possible to have materials which can be re-used or re-generated ad-infinitum with no losses but:
- Sensible limits should be set for what can be achieved.
- These should be based on available technology and use of Best Practice.
To claim sustainability a product should satisfy both the following two criteria:
- At least 50% of the pack (by weight) should be renewable materials.
- The entire pack should be capable of being re-used or converted to a form where it can be re-used.
Justification of 50% Rule
For future availability of materials renewability must be maximised:
- 100% renewable is practically impossible.
- But for anything to claim to “be” something, this must be true for the majority of the item.
- A minimum of 50% is therefore a reasonable, ethical requirement.
- This is already the accepted industry approach for recycled materials.
Justification of Total Re-Use or Conversion
To avoid impact on the environment, land fill should be avoided.
- It should be as easy as possible for the end user to dispose of the pack via its sustainable route(s).
- Re-use, re-cycling or composting should be considered sustainable routes.
- Partially re-useable packs are potentially confusing and could lead to contaminated waste streams.