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Getting green with your packaging

  • By
  • Associate Director

Whatever your product, the way it’s packaged is key. Companies have refined, tweaked and become as innovative in the design of their packaging as they can, but what is the environmental impact?

To reduce costs and meet the demands of high volume production, businesses used to opt for low value materials such as cardboard and plastic for their packaging. However, this is no longer enough as consumers are more ecologically minded and need smarter, better materials that are less harmful for the environment.

Greener materials are undeniably better for the planet but as a business you should note that they’re what the consumer need right now, so have to be incorporated into your packaging.  

Making the right choice

Bigger companies like Carlsberg, Dell and Coca-Cola have already begun making the right choices in terms of biodegradable materials that still produce the same quality of packaging that loyal consumers are used to.

Cardboard and plastic are an inevitable part of the packaging cycle, but the energy that goes into making the sheer volume of these materials is excessive. To overcome this waste, companies such as Dell have pioneered a biodegradable wrapping out of agricultural compost which is made from mushroom roots, corn stalks and cotton burrs.

The change from plastic to eco-friendly packaging meant that during production, 40% less energy was used and they needed 90% less water than traditional cardboard processing. While eco-friendly options are often overlooked on the basis of cost, Dell’s introduction of this biodegradable cardboard made a saving of more than £12.3 million.  

Plastic bags are everywhere, raising brand awareness and providing a practical solution to holding a product. These bags account for 32% of the consumer packaging in the UK and a shocking 414,000 tonnes end up on a landfill site, struggling to degrade.

To overcome this, companies such as Axion are developing alternative bags that don’t have the multi-layer films, which are much easier to recycle. They are working on Near Infrared sorting technologies that will filter bags that can be recycled and those that can’t, to further reduce waste.

It’s what’s on the inside

It is not just exterior, protective packaging where companies can make a difference. Industry leaders such as Coca-Cola and Carlsberg are showing that the product itself can be packaged in a way that uses less energy and is better for the environment.

Coca-Cola broke the mould when they created the first bottle that was made entirely from plants, known as a PET bottle. There is no reason why other companies in similar industries could not adapt this form of packaging to create a greener, cleaner product.

Equally, Carlsberg are working with their suppliers and recycling managers to create a prototype for the world’s first wood-fibre beer bottle.

Modern consumers need something different and recyclable packaging that is less harmful to the environment seems to be a change that companies will have to embrace, if, they want to stand out on an ever-crowded shelf.

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