What Makes Packaging Genuinely Sustainable
Well-crafted packaging serves many functions – safeguarding products during transit, prolonging shelf life, and conveying essential information to consumers.
It also plays a crucial role in reinforcing brand identity and enhancing product desirability.
However, not all packaging is created equal, and if not carefully designed, it can contribute to environmental degradation.
Millennials are pushing brands to be more socially and environmentally responsible.
Sustainable packaging aims to provide all the advantages of conventional packaging while prioritising eco-responsibility.
In this article, we delve into sustainable packaging principles, their significance in the design process, and practical steps to create environmentally friendly packaging.
What constitutes sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging is crafted to be as environmentally responsible as possible throughout its entire life cycle.
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Sustainable packaging should over time reduce its environmental footprint and environmental impact.
This can happen in several ways:
1. Renewable and recycled materials
Using materials derived from renewable resources or those that can be easily recycled is essential. Examples include recycled paper, cardboard, bioplastics made from plant-based sources, and bio-based materials.
The choice of sustainable packaging materials depends on the product’s characteristics. Factors such as protection, shelf life, and recyclability influence the decision. For instance, in some cases, plastics might be the most sustainable option due to their ability to maximise shelf life, while in other scenarios, paper-based materials could be more eco-responsible.
To aid customers in making informed choices, a Green Star System™ has been created, awarding up to five stars based on criteria like the weight of bio-based and recycled materials and technical recyclability.
2. Biodegradability and compostability
Materials that break down naturally over time, either through composting or biodegradation, are considered more sustainable. However, it’s essential to ensure these materials break down in the appropriate conditions and timeframes.
3. Reduced packaging waste
Packaging that uses the least amount of material necessary to protect the product is preferred. This includes avoiding over-packaging and designing packaging that is lightweight yet sturdy.
While off-the-shelf packaging solutions have their place, bespoke packaging design offers innovative ways to enhance green credentials. Smart design can significantly reduce the carbon footprint by eliminating wasted space, allowing for more efficient transportation and reduced emissions.
Additionally, packaging should be designed for easy recycling and disassembly, promoting reusability with minimal effort.
4. Reusable and recyclable packaging
Emphasizing packaging that can be reused, recycled, or repurposed helps reduce waste. This could involve using materials that are accepted by local recycling programs or designing packaging that consumers can easily reuse.
Packaging solutions that facilitate closed-loop systems, where materials are reused or recycled efficiently without losing their value, are more sustainable.
5. Energy-efficient production
Choosing production methods that consume less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions contributes to sustainability.
Packaging processes that prioritize energy-efficient methods and reduce carbon emissions contribute to sustainability.
6. Circular economy principles
Designing packaging systems that aim to reuse materials or keep them in circulation through recycling or repurposing align with the principles of a circular economy.
7. Social responsibility
Evaluating the social implications of packaging materials and processes, including factors such as fair labor practices, community impact, and equitable access to resources.
Importance of sustainability in design
Several compelling reasons drive companies to integrate sustainability into their packaging design.
Firstly, it contributes to the global shift from a ‘take, make, use, throw’ culture to a circular economy, where resources are used responsibly and for extended periods.
Secondly, regulatory measures, such as the Plastic Packaging Tax in the UK, incentivise businesses to incorporate recycled materials in their packaging.
Lastly, consumer preferences are evolving, with a significant percentage willing to spend more on products with sustainable packaging and a considerable portion judging businesses based on the ethics of their packaging.
Businesses that neglect sustainability in their product design harm the environment and risk compromising their bottom line.
Sustainable packaging design is a holistic approach that considers the entire life cycle of packaging materials. I
t is essential to responsible business practices, aligning with global efforts to reduce environmental impact.
By focusing on efficient design, selecting eco-responsible materials, and considering carbon offsetting, businesses can contribute to a sustainable future while meeting consumer expectations and regulatory requirements.
For expert guidance on choosing sustainable packaging or creating bespoke solutions, businesses can leverage specialized services to enhance their commitment to environmental protection.