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Green Packaging Design11th April 2017
In the throw away society we live in, the design of packaging has never been so important. The whole life cycle of product packaging needs to be considered. From reducing the carbon footprint in manufacture to limiting the amount of non-biodegradable waste entering landfill. We see the term ‘sustainable packaging’ becoming all too commonplace, but what does this actually mean and does saying you are green company or product actually mean the best eco techniques are being used?
Brands are working hand-in-hand with designers to find new ways to reduce the impact of packaging on the planet. As consumers become increasing savvy to green packaging, designers and brands need to harness advances in manufacturing processes and material development to make an appealing product but also ensure it meets its green obligation. Degradable papers, pulps, composite materials and animal inks are at the forefront of the many choices designers have. Using these and introducing it to consumers as a unique selling point, to enhance the product offering is the challenge they face. Loosing loyal customers due to a change in packaging format could spell disaster for even the most formidable household names.
So how are they going about it?
Packaging is often grossly oversized either for maximizing shelf standout or protection during transit. When considering the packaging required from the pallet in the warehouse to the final opening of the product, one product may have as many as four pieces of outer packaging. Reducing the amount of material used either by shrinking the packaging to its optimal size or removing unnecessary layers of packaging such as shrink-wrap is a simple first step. This not only reduces the amount of packaging used but also lowers the overall weight improving fuel efficiency during transit.
An obvious idea is switching to recyclable materials or materials sourced from renewable sources. Unfortunately these materials can be expensive and off-putting for businesses. They can also be limited in achieving certain print techniques and finishes. For example the multilayered plastic used in most crisps packets is currently impossible to recycle and no affordable alternative is currently available that offers such good printing surface whilst keeping the product fresh. As technology catches up alternative, simple switches can be made. For instances using cardboard inserts instead of vacuum formed trays and the stripping back on the size of labels; shaving a few millimeters off one label across a run of one million works out to be a significant saving. These again are simple considerations that can be made at the concept stage but dramatically improve the footprint of a piece of packaging.
Technology is improving but it is pointless if designers and brands are not investigating its use. Investigation into the feasibility of new processes should be constantly undertaken to see how it could be incorporated in today’s packaging design. Designers need to have knowledge of ‘clean’ manufacturing techniques and best practices. Knowledge of the after life of product packaging needs to also be considered. An awareness of the sorting process at the recycling center is key. Basic knowledge of the advantage of using single-material components will increase the percentage of packaging that is recycled.It is important for us to balance all of these considerations, in order to provide a packaging design that protects the environment as well as the quality of our customers’ product. Only in a world, where brands, designers and consumers together take responsibility will a 'real' impact to the planet be made.