Get With The Times!
Packaging is an area that has been through a period of transition. We have moved away from standard packaging and looked to create new approaches that are practical and attractive and that recognise the needs of our consumers. This has led to a range of innovative packaging systems being developed as well as new approaches to the use of packaging materials.
One of the areas where there has been a lot of activity has been in relation to the consideration of the environmental impact of packaging materials and how they are being used. Over recent years, there has been a consistent shift to developing and using sustainable packaging. There are still many who have not moved across to this approach. However, there has been a change in how organisations within a variety of industries view the way that their products should be presented to consumers.
In many ways, this has been a response to changes in how clients would like to see products packaged. Governments have started to introduce rules around the use of plastics and many people in the community are already making decisions on product choice with environmental factors being a part of this. It is likely as people become more aware of environmental issues that they will respond positively to companies that are being innovative in their approach to reducing their environmental impact.
The Costs Of Sustainable Packaging
One of the major limiting factors for many businesses moving to sustainable packaging has been the cost factor. If a product is in a competitive market, then the additional costs associated with packaging may make a product less attractive to your average consumer. This means organisations that are looking to move across to sustainable packaging need to be innovative in their approach not only to the creation of the packaging, but also how they promote their products as part of this transition process.
It is also interesting to note that there have been a number of studies that have indicated that many clients would be happy to pay more if products were in sustainable packaging.
The Benefits Of Sustainable Packaging
There are a range of benefits that can come to an organisation by being innovative in the use of sustainable packaging. Primarily, by introducing sustainable processes and packaging materials there will be a reduction in the negative impact on the environment. The reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds produced through the use of fossil fuels is going to be beneficial. Switching to lighter packaging materials can reduce the cost of transportation.
Plastics have been a major contributor to weight reduction in packaging, but obviously there are a range of problems with the use of plastics. They are often produced using petrochemicals and they are often thrown away after use with a long-term impact on waste disposal and the environment. There have been many assessments of the impact of plastics on the environment and they tend to tell us a story that is not good. One of the major problems has been the flow of plastics into the ocean. Single-use plastic products and plastic packaging are major contributors to this problem.
There has also been a discussion about the over packaging of items. This is where products are wrapped and presented to the consumer in extra packaging as a way to make a sale. The packaging only serves the purpose of selling the item. This has been particularly relevant with the sale of fresh produce.
Improves The Reputation Of Your Brand
Many consumers are concerned about the impact they have on the environment and this can influence the products they choose and the brands they are loyal to. Sustainable packaging can be another factor that is used in marketing a product. Showing corporate responsibility and promoting that you are environmentally-focused will help influence many consumers in choosing your product.
Reduces Materials Used And Costs
Another element in making packaging more sustainable is being creative in designing packaging so that there is an efficient use of materials. This is a simple and fundamental element of business activity. If you are reducing the quantity of resources you consume, then you are going to reduce the cost.
Increases Space Available
By reducing the amount of packaging, you may also reduce the amount of space your product takes up. This could mean reductions in transportation costs as well.
You will also require less space at your own facility for storing the goods. This could open up other options to utilise the space or you may be able to reduce costs associated with your storage.
Smaller packaging also allows for more room when the item is presented on the shelf and you may consider other display options to help with promotion.
Reduction Of Allergens And Toxins
One of the other positive elements that will come from choosing sustainable packaging is that it can be low in allergens or even allergen free. It should also not contain potentially toxic chemicals. This can have an impact not only on your consumers but also on your production environment. Offering a healthier environment for your workers is always a positive thing to do. But the reduction in allergens and toxins will be attractive to many consumers.
Biodegradable packaging is becoming more available and there has been a wide range of approaches taken to develop suitable alternatives to plastics. There are even plastics and bio-plastics that are designed to have a reduced environmental impact. The cost of these items is decreasing, and their use will increase affordability and the ease of implementation. For now, however, plastics still have a role to play in packaging as it is easy to use and is very effective for reducing product weight.
Great For The Long Term
Introducing sustainable packaging may not be something you achieve overnight but it is worth putting in place a plan to include this as part of your ongoing business development strategy. It may require an initial outlay of funds and there could be some increase in the cost of packaging. However, if it is undertaken as part of an effective marketing strategy, you should see additional returns.
Companies Are Adopting Sustainable Packaging
There are many organisations that have already started to make an impact with innovative ideas for sustainable packaging. In the US, there is a large market for canned beers, which are often sold in six packs with plastic rings to hold them together. These plastic ring products are a serious problem for ocean creatures and take many years to break down. A beer company has created a six-pack holder that is made from barley and wheat as by-products from the brewing process. The six-pack holder is compostable and edible, so it will not affect wildlife or sea life.
A shampoo company has put out a new shampoo bottle that has as part of its makeup at least 25% of the material coming from plastics that have been collected from beaches and recycled. The shampoo bottle is also fully recyclable.
A major spice company has introduced fully recyclable spice containers and has also reduced the amount of production required for glass containers achieving both a weight reduction, as well as the reduced energy required for production. These have substantially reduced the carbon footprint of the company and not had any negative impact on the effectiveness of the marketing of its products.
Soft Drink Bottles
A major soft drink manufacturer has taken advantage of new plant-based bioplastics to produce a durable drink bottle that is able to be recycled. This is not a product that is able to be easily composted and has many qualities similar to plastics. However, the raw materials that are used in its production are sustainably sourced.
Another alternative that is attracting attention is biodegradable bioplastics that are usually made from polylactic acid or PLA. The advantage of these plastics is that they are made from sustainably sourced materials, although they are not able to be recycled. These do have another limitation in that they need to be composted in special facilities and this would require an additional infrastructure arrangement which is not available at present.
There are new sustainable barrier coatings that can be used on fibre-based products to prevent the penetration of moisture. These are able to be used as an alternative to laminated products that cannot be recycled.
Better quality printing on moulded fibre packaging (such as egg cartons) is now available. This means that clear graphics can be printed directly on the packaging, removing the need for additional outer wrappings that are often currently used.
Packaging is an area where there are going to be more innovative approaches as technology and materials develop. There is an ongoing transition in thinking associated with packaging and this will impact not only on the design of packaging but also on the materials being used. The basic materials of glass, paper, and aluminium will still remain popular, but there will be changes, particularly in the use of plastics.
The types and size of packaging and the use of packaging materials will be assessed more closely to meet the changing expectations of consumers and also to adjust to requirements around reducing the amount of single-use plastics going to landfill. It is an exciting period in the development of packaging and there will be many more developments in the near future.