In order to be able to understand what environmental issues in material management means, it is first important to understand what material management is. The field of logistics and materials management works to “plan and direct how materials and equipment are used to produce goods and services” (Field of Study: Logistics and Materials Management, 2013). This field is concerned with managing inventory, allocating resources, working to make sure goods are appropriately packaged, that those goods are shipped on time, that staff is appropriately managed, and that all computer systems are optimal for necessary record keeping (Field of Study: Logistics and Materials Management, 2013). The explanation of this field may seem simple, though the coordination necessary in order to make sure that goods are ready and shipped from point A to point B in a timely fashion is anything but. This coordination process is further compounded in difficulty as a result of the environmental issues that have come up in recent years in regards to the packaging of these goods for transport. By working to understand several of the different environmental issues associated with materials management, it will be possible for the outsider to the field to have a better grasp and understanding of all that it entails.
In recent years there has been a growing concern regarding the environment in the public conscious, and the easiest of these environmental concerns to address is that of waste (Green Industries, n.d.). Packaging materials may differ in thickness, with the thinner the packaging material used, the less packaging material that will end up in a landfill (Green Industries, n.d.). In order to address this particular concern, many manufacturers are switching to thin plastics, as they have proven to be highly durable, though they are prone to puncturing easily (Green Industries, n.d.).
The concern of the amount of waste is not the only environmental issue in materials management; the issue of recycling is present as well (Marsh & Bugusu, 2007). In past years companies would simply use what they needed and throw away what was left over. Considering the increasing desire for corporate responsibility and the desire of the majority to work to reduce our impact on the environment, many companies are switching to recycled materials for packaging, or are recycling the packaging materials once the goods get to their destination. This type of recycling has required a shift in the materials used for packaging purposes. Glass and metal used to be more common as packaging materials, resulting in higher transportation costs, more stability, and greater product weight. In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation of the goods, manufacturers are switching to other packaging materials that are less costly, lighter, and are recyclable (Marsh & Bugusu, 2007). There are limitations to these waste management practices discussed herein, as the cost of recycling is influenced by the cost of transportation, and there is an increasing likelihood for goods being damaged or contaminated with the use of plastic packaging (Marsh & Bugusu, 2007; Green Industries, n.d.).
As it may be seen, there are many associated difficulties with just these two areas of environmental issues, and these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues associated with logistics and materials management. By working to understand the different factors that influence this field, the different issues that need to be addressed by those within the field, and the associated effects of the changes being made in order to address environmental issues, it is possible for an individual to better understand all that this field entails and how truly complex it is.
- Field of study: Logistics and materials management. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.iseek.org/education/fieldOfStudy?id=161400
- Green Industries. (n.d.). 24) food packaging wastes and environmental impacts. Retrieved from http://www.greendustries.com
- Marsh, K., & Bugusu, B. (2007). Food packaging and its environmental impact. Food Technology, 46-50. Retrieved from http://www.ift.org
- Marsh, K., & Bugusu, B. (2007). Food packaging—roles, materials, and environmental issues. Journal of Food Science, 72(3), R39-R55. Retrieved from http://ift.org
- Ryan, V. (2004). Packaging – environmental issues. Retrieved from http://www.technologystudent.com/despro2/enviro1.htm