The concept of sustainable packaging is not just about reducing the impact on our environment, but also making sure that you can still deliver high-quality products with all aspects considered. To do this, we design new packages using principles similar to those used for traditional ones - only now they're made more environmentally friendly! In this article, we will go through the different aspects of sustainable packaging. And what criteria we use for improving the sustainability of your packaging.
The question of which packaging is sustainable or not cannot be answered simply. Packages come with unique designs, serving different purposes, and need to consider the full life cycle from manufacturing through end-of use for a product in order to determine if it's environmentally friendly.
In this Ted Talk Matteo Ward, CEO and co-founder of WRÅD, the innovative start-up and design company dedicated to sustainable innovation and social change, talks about the values and meanings of responsible design. First, we have to define what sustainable design is. Sustainability is defined as any action that allows us to address our present needs, without compromising the needs of future generations. Taking this into mind, we have to look further into the definition of sustainable design. To create clarity and uniformity, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) defined eight criteria for sustainable packaging.
Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles
Using the criteria listed above, we created our own set of standards to design sustainable packaging solutions.
1. Strength. The packaging has a function, it needs to ensure safe transportation of the products inside. For example, fragile products need to arrive in one piece and clothing should arrive dry. Therefore, we look into the fragility of the packaging and whether it is water-resistant. A sustainable package is optimized to serve its function.
2. Weight and volume. This is a no-brainer, it is a simple yet very effective way of reducing waste production. Reducing the total amount of materials is directly related to the amount of waste produced. With these criteria, we decide on how well the packaging serves its purpose. Is there any empty space in the packaging that can be eliminated? Or any materials that aren’t required?
3. Carbon footprint. Throughout the full life cycle of the packaging, CO2-emissions are emitted. We need to take into account the way of transportation, and the use of (hopefully) renewable energy. It is a well-know fact that fossil fuels are an unsustainable source of energy which causes more carbon emissions. Therefore, shifting to cleaner and renewable fuels is an important part of implementation of sustainability in packaging. This change will largely depend on local availability of a reliable supply of renewable energy.
4. Recyclability. The use of recycled or bio-based and renewable materials from well-managed sources can ensure the availability of materials for future generations and also prevent harmful chemicals and microplastics affecting the environment. Use of recycled materials contributes to circular economy and helps in conservation of resources. To make the packaging more easily recyclable, materials used need to be easily separated. Mono-material-packages are more easily recyclable.
5. Litter potential. Besides the CO2-emissions emitted throughout the life-cycle of the packaging, this isn’t the only negative impact on the environment. Elimination of harmful gases and substances, such as methane and CO2 emissions resulting in climate change, is an important part of making a packaging sustainable. Also, it is important to be aware of eutrophication, acidification and photochemical ozone creation potential from different materials.
Want to know more about the effect of litter potential? Read the article about the power of corporate social responsibility.
6. Resource depletion. This indicator includes the depletion of non-renewable resources. Sustainable materials need to be used, wherever is possible. Sustainable means taking into account the effect on the future, of our children and their children. Is our way of living lasting in the future?
7. Costs. Last but not the least, the package need to me affordable. It is often assumed that sustainable products are more expensive. But we design to make the package long term-cost efficient. By minimizing the materials used, the costs for producing the packaging decrease.
Do you want to reduce the environmental impact of your packaging? Let us help you find the perfect solution and contact us here!
Circulate. “What is Sustainable Packaging?” Circulate8, 2021, https://www.circulate8.com/blog/16709-what-is-sustainable-packaging. Accessed 25 April 2022.
Coalition, Sustainable Packaging. “Definition of Sustainable Packaging.” Sustainable Packaging Coalition, 2011, https://sustainablepackaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Definition-of-Sustainable-Packaging.pdf. Accessed 25 April 2022.
Delft University of Technology. “Eco-costs resource scarcity - Sustainability Impact Metrics.” Eco-costs, 2021, https://www.ecocostsvalue.com/eco-costs/eco-costs-resource-scarcity/. Accessed 25 April 2022.
Leppänen, Samuel. “Taking sustainability to the next level – Sustainable packaging in forest products value chain.” Visionhunters.com, https://visionhunters.com/sustainable-packaging-in-forest-products-value-chain/. Accessed 25 April 2022.