The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Washington, D.C.,  released on March 17 the results of survey research indicating that food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers anticipate that they will eliminate 4 billion pounds of packaging waste nationwide from 2005 to 2020. More than 1.5 billion pounds have already been avoided since 2005, and another 2.5 billion pounds are expected to be eliminated by 2020.  The 4 billion pounds represents a 19% reduction of reporting companies' total average U.S. packaging weight.

 "Across the board, the food, beverage and consumer products industry has been vigilant in its efforts to reduce its environmental footprint," says Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of GMA. "When it comes to eliminating packaging from the supply chain, we have already made significant progress, but we know we can do more."

 The 1.5 billion pounds of packaging avoided since 2005 includes more than 800 million pounds of plastic and more than 500 million pounds of paper.  Packaging improvements have spanned most product categories, with no single category dominating.  Companies reported that they achieved the 2005-2010 reductions through the success of more than 180 distinct improvement initiatives that included package redesigns and increased use of recyclable inputs.

 "In eliminating this packaging from the supply chain, we are reducing a significant volume of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, but the benefits go far beyond that,” notes John Shanahan, GMA’s senior director for energy and environmental policy. “Companies are reporting that packaging improvements are also enabling them to ship more units per truckload, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve resources such as water and energy.”

 The greenhouse gas emissions avoided by a 4-billion-pound packaging reduction have the equivalent impact of removing 815,000 cars from the road or 363,000 homes from the energy grid for one year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator.

 The report is based on two surveys conducted for GMA by McKinsey & Company and Georgetown Economic Services. To download the report, click here.