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Top Sustainable Packaging Mistakes

This is our summary of an article we think is important for our clients, but we understand they may not have time to read long articles. So we’ve done the grunt work. Here is the bare minimum you need to consider.

Most common household packages – including potato chip bags, drink cartons, pizza boxes and toothpaste tubes – are not recyclable. For companies hoping to woo sustainability-minded customers, this can be a real problem.

Packaging is the first thing that consumers see, and it can heavily influence their buying decisions.

There are three priorities companies must have when considering packaging:

1) How well it will drive consumers to buy the product?

2) How much will it cost?

3) What level of environmental sustainability does it have?

The problem is that many companies, even ones who are trying to go sustainable, only focus on the first two. The third question can no longer be ignored, it MUST be considered.

Research shows customers in the U.S and Europe want more sustainable packaging.

Examples of Common Mistakes that have been made:

1. Chips Bag Problem (Doritos, top of page). The typical chip bag is made from up to seven layers of foil and plastic, but there is currently no machinery to separate these layers, so they are not recyclable. One solution is personalized reusable packages (the future of retail foods and drinks).

Photo from Good product, bad package

2. Single-serving Problem (Dannon above). The smaller a package and the greater its mix of materials, the less recyclable it is. The rule is: Small is bad, larger is better. One solution is personalized reusable containers. Another option is compostable, biodegradable packaging. (Both are the future of retail foods). (See Exploring Bioplastics 1)

Photo from Good product, bad package

3. Toothpaste tubes and the toothbrushes (Colgate above). The small size, blended material and leftover toothpaste inside toothpaste tubes – and other tube-based containers – make recycling almost impossible. For toothbrushes the blend of plastic and nylon bristles makes them difficult to disassemble and recycle. Solution: Colgate-Palmolive has been working with AYS to create a recyclable toothpaste tube or package.

Photo from Good product, bad package

4. Post-consumer plastic bottles (PET plastic bottles, above), are much better for recycling, but there is still room for improvement when it comes to the percentage of bottles that are recycled. Solution: Companies alike Coca-Cola and Pepsico are leading the way by launching programs to make recycling more efficient and convenient, and have developed bottles that are made from 100% recycled plastic, or are up to 70% PLA bioplastics, which are compostable.

For more examples and more solutions see the whole article in The Guardian, here.

The Point: Customers are becoming more aware of, and worried about, environmental concerns. Research* has shown they want sustainable products packaged sustainably, and will choose products that are verifiably sustainable. Companies that want to gain these customers’ loyalty need to reconsider many of their basic packaging options. Design can solve these problems.

* If you would like to see some research, leave a comment below and I will be happy to find it for you and pass it on.





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