Packaging that save the planet
Sustainability must be understood as a holistic commitment, which must take into account multiple aspects. Its main objective is to protect the product and ensure that it is delivered safely and in perfect condition to the end user.
On average, ten times more resources (materials, energy and water) are invested in the production of products compared to the resources used to produce their packaging. Therefore, the direct costs associated with the use of packaging are relatively small compared to the value they add in ensuring that these resources are not wasted.
THE ROLE OF PACKAGING DESIGNERS
Prior to the development of packaging, various aspects must be considered, so that these elements collaborate in order to save the planet.
A first step is to resort to alternative materials for packaging, such as biomaterials. Among the most interesting materials are wood pulp, vegetable cellulose, food waste, grass, algae and fungi. These materials can be obtained sustainably, ideally in whole or in part. At the end of their lives, they can be composted to regenerate depleted agricultural soils.
In terms of design, second uses should be proposed, packaging should be thought of beyond its function of containing, communicating and transporting, designing a second life so that it is not discarded.
Business models must also change. It is undeniable that the industry must face challenges for the production of containers that save the planet. This is a paradigm shift, which implies investments that many times companies are not willing to make. The vast majority of industries handle processes built around materials that are not environmentally friendly so they face large investments to adapt their machinery and processes.
If brands do not change that approach soon, they will not exist in the future. Companies that put their profits before investment in zero waste solutions will lose out in the long run. Companies must migrate to a completely new paradigm in terms of sustainability and zero waste. This is not just a trend, it is a movement.
What we are clearly seeing is that there is more and more pressure for packaging to be thought out taking into account the environmental variable without leaving it out under any circumstances. Brands must be more environmentally responsible and must be transparent about their practices, but consumers must also take some responsibility. Many people want to help, but are not sure how to do it, so brands can gain loyalty by using education and offering simple solutions.
THE ROLE OF CONSUMERS
The packaging industry is becoming increasingly active in educating consumers about recycling, focusing on promoting coordinated actions between the different links in the value chain. New generations, such as Millennials and especially generation Z, have a tattooed environmental commitment and an awareness beyond themselves. When they make their consumption choices, the environmental variable is very important, so they will be checking not only whether a product is “sugar-free” or “gluten-free” but also whether it is “plastic-free”.
A recent case is that of the Ecoplaza chain in Amsterdam, which created its first plastic free aisle where it exhibits over 700 food items – and no plastic at all. Instead, food is displayed in glass, metal and cardboard containers, as well as in materials that can be composted. Although some of the packaging may look like plastic, it is actually made from a biofilm made from trees and plants that decomposes in 12 weeks in a homemade compostor.
That awareness in new generations is growing and is making brands begin to listen to consumers about these requests leading them to improve their packaging offerings. The reality is that this change in packaging development is very complex, and the solutions to achieve it are multi-variable. Therefore, attention must be paid, and particularly research support, as these innovative solutions arise in laboratories and universities, and require the support of governments through regulations.
Consumers are paying much more attention to the impact of packaging on the planet. Today more than ever, a broader approach across the industry’s supply chain is needed to achieve a true zero-waste mentality. Our ultimate goal must be to wrap perishable food in perishable packaging.