Sustainable Packaging of Organic Food: Myth or Reality?

Abstract: Previous research has argued that packaging has a great potential to contribute to sustainable development, but how to put this potential into practice is not yet fully explored. The theoretical foundation of the research presented is at the intersection of packaging logistics and sustainable development. This foundation was chosen because it offers established models that are well linked to the holistic view of sustainable packaging of this thesis.

The thesis has two purposes. The first is to explore and elaborate on the potential contribution of packaging to sustainable development from a packaging logistics perspective. This is done in two theoretical studies. They are based on data collected via literature reviews and analyzed according to a content analysis procedure. The first theoretical study examines how this contribution of packaging is supported in formalized approaches provided by academia and trade associations. The analysis shows that in general, the approaches fall short in their consideration of packaging functions and the indirect effects packaging functions have on sustainable development. The second theoretical study explores in greater depth how the onsideration of packaging functions can contribute to sustainable development. This resulted in extensive lists of how the 19 packaging features of three packaging functions can contribute to sustainable development in 14 different ways. Several practical examples are given.

The second purpose of the thesis is to explore and elaborate on the potential contributions that organic standardization organizations, consumers and brand owners can make to the use and development of sustainable packaging in practice in an organic food context. The data were primarily collected in four studies through interviews and a survey. Content and statistical analyses were applied to the data. The studies show that organic standardization organizations, consumers and brand owners face challenges that limit their ability to
contribute to the use and development of sustainable packaging. However, the research also points out additional abilities for these stakeholders that are particularly linked to increased consideration of the important functions of packaging in regulations, purchases, and in packaging selection and development processes.

Overall, this thesis emphasizes the need to integrate consideration of packaging functions and a holistic approach to sustainable packaging in an effort to enhance the sustainable packaging of organic food.

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