Packages and closures for packaging

Eco-design – by definition, your product is waste!

Eco-design is yet another newly coined term that has recently entered our dictionaries. Its etymology is self-explanatory, but what does it really mean? What requirements have to be met in order to call a product’s design “eco”?
Today we present the first part of the series on eco-design elements and analysis of the product development stages. Next part will land in two weeks!

We need 1.6 Earths to satisfy our consumerism!
In these last years we have become increasingly aware of the problem of draining the Earth. We deplete its natural resources and constantly search for new deposits, while simultaneously flooding our planet with waste. Although the subject has been on the tapis for many years now, it is only recently that we can hear strong voices against such irresponsibility.
It is difficult to change old habits, but fortunately governments and NGOs start to force us, the earthlings, to revalue our day-to-day behaviours.
In our Polpak Packaging articles we try to inform the readers about new eco-trends – for instance in the plastic recycling, which especially concerns us. For a long time now we have been covering subjects related to recycling, zero waste and ecological education. This time we present the idea of eco-design incorporated at the stage of the product planning.

How to endear consumers?
The process of marketing cosmetics or detergents is time-consuming and quite gruelling. The main goal: sell it and make as much money as possible. Today, however, we have to take into consideration our ethical obligations not only towards the planet, but also ourselves and the future generations. First of all, we need to formulate the medium’s recipe that would be consumer-attractive, design the packaging and draw up marketing and sale strategies.
Although consumer studies show the customers become more and more aware of the product and packaging composition, most decisions to buy are made spontaneously on the spot (from 50 to 80% consumers buy on impulse). Hence, it is important to draw customer’s attention with packaging.

Eco-design is surely not for everyone. Companies that decide to implement it have a base of ecologically conscious customers who do not fall for fancy knick-knacks or tricks and need substantive arguments in order to make a purchase. If we want to attract such customers, we need to present solutions based on hard evidence and reasonable arguments.

How to do it?
The key to success may be to include the label with information that the packaging is fully recyclable or that it was made from recovered materials. Since today we mainly shop online, it would be wise to use efficient copywriting to inform the buyers about the eco-benefits of the particular purchase.
Regardless of the target market, everyone should make a step towards the eco-designing by printing packaging labels with colours of the waste bins our empty packaging should go to.

From medium to glue
The idea of the eco-design involves making conscious choices about all packaging elements. A very important part of the process is to devise a balanced composition of the product. Main ingredients should include herbal extracts and a moderate portion of detergents in case of household chemicals which might pollute ground waters.
However, we will focus on packaging, which is our cup of tea.
If the packaging includes the bottle, closure, label, external and collective packaging, all these elements need eco-solutions.

Plastic bottles manufactured in whole or in a major part from PCR – recycled polymers, are a good start.
However, many companies have lately come up with innovative solutions which completely oust plastic. One of the world leading beverage alcohol companies has recently unveiled its paper-based bottles. The producers claim it would take 18 months for their new containers to completely disintegrate in compost, ground or saltwater, while their decomposition would not leave any trace or negative environmental impact.
Unfortunately, there is no information on the cap. We can only hope that mindful consumers will remember to place it in a proper waste bin.
Changing trends pave the way for innovations!
Once, if you bought wine in a carton, for most people it would mean you lack money for better quality. It was mainly associated with students or individuals who drink more than just an occasional glass of wine. Today drinking boxed wine equals caring for our planet!

Another idea to replace plastic bottles has been put by a shampoo company. This year they plan to sell their products in aluminium bottles. The idea is to refill them in-store instead of buying product in yet another packaging.
Once again we could say we are going back to “the good old days” when cosmetic packaging made from aluminium was a standard. Today, some manufacturers opt for the retro style by selling their products in aluminium jars.
Nonetheless, aluminium bottles for products that are quickly used up by consumers may sound controversial. Right now there are still very few in-store refill stations, so would it not become a “single-use” packaging? And what about the functionality? It would be difficult to get the very last drop of the product, since aluminium cannot be squeezed as plastic. This may simply result in wasting which is in clear violation of the basic principles of the zero waste philosophy. All in all, we will have to observe and analyse the consumer behaviour once these bottles find their way to the market.
The eco-process also involves planned refilling of the bottles. For the recycling purposes, it is very important to avoid multi-material refill pouches, otherwise we might fall into another eco-trap. If our original packaging (bottle and dispenser) is recyclable, but the refill packaging is not, we simply torpedo our previous efforts.
The refill packaging supplier should offer packaging with all layers made from the same type of recyclable material.

Multidimensionality of the eco-design requires us to stay on our toes and constantly question seemingly sustainable solutions. Since there are many stages in the production process, as well as in the later “life” of a product, we should try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we apply an eco-solution at one stage only, it might turn out that our efforts are corrupted later in the process by leaving carbon or water footprint.
Not long ago, a niche cosmetic company from Poland decided to sell their creams in glass jars, which could be returned to the producer. The packaging was cleaned, sterilised and refilled with cream. It seemed perfect, especially for the supporters of the container-deposit systems. However, after a while the company backtracked and told their customers to throw the packaging to the glass waste bins. Why? The process of preparing the returned jars for re-use involved too much water and electricity, plus the transport from the customer left the carbon footprint. Since glass is 100% recyclable, in practice, new jars are eco-friendly.

Next time we will discuss the element which is very dear to our hearts – bottle closures. We will also analyse label and external packaging solutions.


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