Recent publicity about plastic packaging has raised consumer concerns. Now, 38% of U.S. consumers say that they would take their custom to supermarkets that don’t use plastic packaging for their fruit and vegetables. When consumer behavior is being driven by environmental concerns, the business world has to respond.
The role of sustainable packaging is becoming increasingly more important to businesses and manufacturers as more consumers prefer to buy eco-friendly products.
Serious About Sustainability
Business is getting serious about sustainability. The Global 100 list is compiled by Corporate Knights, a financial information company. They rate firms on several indicators of sustainability.
Their carbon productivity may be the most obvious environmental measure but there’s more to it than that. They also consider the CEO to average worker pay, the percentage of women on the board and the percentage of revenue through sustainable products.
For the high performing sustainable firms, sustainability is more than a marketing idea. It’s about recognizing that long term impact of business decisions on people and the planet are vital to their business.
What Is Sustainable Packaging?
When applying the principles of sustainability to the packaging side of your business you need to look at the whole supply chain.
Pre-production issues include raw materials and sourcing. Production includes manufacturing processes, energy use, employment, and environmental impact. Logistics and especially transport are also key.
Once packaging has left the manufacturer its life in-store for retailers is relevant to consider. After that, the challenges are about recyclability and reusability.
Consumers are becoming more conscious and better educated about sustainability. As they learn more about sustainability, the pressure to address their expectations will rise.
We need some inspirational examples of sustainable packaging to help us rise to the challenge.
1. Shampoo Bottle
The packaging design team at Proctor and Gamble must have seen those TV documentaries and news stories about the mountains of harmful plastic waste in our oceans. They probably recognized many of their own products were among the plastic waste.
Their creative approach was to use reclaimed beach waste. They used it as the raw material for manufacturing their Head and Shoulders brand shampoo bottles. Each container is made from 25% recycled plastic taken from beaches.
2. Sushi Takeaway
Takeaway food packaging is everywhere to be seen, Not only does it form much of our streets litter but it also goes into landfill as much of it is non-recyclable. An innovative design for sushi takeaway packaging is hoping to change this.
The design is PET coated cardboard which is biodegradable and recyclable. The long narrow packaging is perfect to carry sushi as well as a soy sauce container.
Designing a closure for packaging often uses additional material to make it function effectively. These sushi takeaway containers also have to include a means of carrying chopsticks. The ingenious designer has solved both problems by using the chopsticks as a needle to close the box.
3. Paper Bottles
One of the reasons so much plastic is used in bottles such as hand wash or shower gel is that the bottle needs to maintain its integrity. Making it strong enough to both contain the liquid and stand up takes a lot of plastic. On the face of it, a paper bottle doesn’t seem to be a sensible alternative.
By using an inner water-resistant plastic liner, the paper bottle gets over the problem of how to contain a liquid. The liner is 95% thinner than a standard plastic bottle. The strength of the bottle comes from the recyclable paper bottle with a unique construction.
Interlocking grooves provide strength and the bottles have an opening in them allowing consumers to squeeze every last drop from the inner plastic sleeve.
4. Shoe Bag
Shoes are typically sold in boxes with tissue inside to provide the product with some protection. After being sold, these boxes are then put into a bag in a retail sales environment adding further packaging. Puma, the sports shoe manufacturer has adopted an innovative way of reducing this packaging.
Puma has an alternative to the traditional shoe box, a shoe bag. The bag uses 60% less energy to make and less water too. The saving in tissue paper amounts to 8,500 pounds of paper.
The bag itself is reusable. Keep your shoes in them to take them to the gym or protect them. Better still they are attractive enough to use the bag for shopping or as a gift bag.
5. Square Bottles
As long ago as the 1800s a Scottish whiskey company made the decision to use a square bottle for their exported whiskey. This meant that more bottles could be fitted into the space available on-board ship. This was an early example of good sustainability practice in packaging.
The Johnnie Walker brand still uses square bottles. Not only does it provide better space utilization reducing shipping costs and energy use but it’s also a strong feature of the brand.
6. Boxed Water
Why does water have to be sold in plastic bottles? The single-use plastic water bottle is often to be found in ocean waste and has spawned the marketing of cool re-usable water bottles. There is an alternative approach.
Boxed Water uses containers more familiarly used for milk or juice. It’s made from eco-friendly materials and is efficient for shipping too. They are 100% recyclable.
7. Toilet Roll
The largest item consumers purchase on a regular basis from their grocer is a pack of toilet roll. A multi-pack of toilet rolls may use a percentage of recycled paper but what about the packaging. Some packs have individually wrapped rolls within a large multi-pack.
Greencane makes biodegradable paper products including toilet roll. It’s made from sugar cane and bamboo. Its eco-friendly credentials are not in doubt.
The crucial sustainable packaging concept is to make all their packaging plastic free. Their brand values are followed through to their packaging. They do have clear cellophane in their packaging which is biodegradable and can be composted.
8. Champagne Package
A premium product like Champaign may feel decadent and not the first place to start looking for sustainability practices. Veuve Clicquot’s begs to differ.
The distinctive orange label is keen to claim that it is concerned about the environment. After all, it is a natural product depending as it does on sustainable cultivation of grapes.
Veuve Clicquot uses biodegradable containers. They are recyclable too. They are made from potato starch.
Once you’ve consumed the Champagne and recycled the glass bottle you can use the resealable container to transport other bottles safely.
The Future of Packaging
The planet and communities around the world need packaging solutions. We need them to be sustainable packaging solutions. This is going to be an exciting creative challenge for the packaging industry.
Learn more about reducing packaging and living a zero waste lifestyle.