Packaging for me is a necessary evil. We need it to protect the goods we buy whilst they are being shipped and stored and to keep multiple parts together. However most of the time, as soon as we have the product home the packaging goes straight in the bin. This not only adds to landfill but consumes excessive resources whilst it’s being produced.
For a more sustainable future we need to be responsible with the way we package goods. Here are a few ideas.
Firstly, if a product doesn’t need a box then don’t put it in one. There are countless examples on store shelves of products that simply do not need packaging. Take a bottle of moisturiser for example. The bottle the cream is contained in is usually made from tough plastic and is able to withstand being knocked about and exposed to water in the bathroom but so often it’s put in a box for the shelf. The box is doing little more than making the product look attractive in the store as it does no require the box for protection. I say get rid of the box.
Don’t use excessive packaging. On so many occasions I have opened a box to find a tiny product and loads of excess space taken up by folded cardboard, moulded plastic or even worse – Styrofoam. Sure the product needs to look appealing on the shelf but are we really that stupid that we think the bigger the box the better the product? I believe there should be just enough packaging to make sure the product is well protected and no more. We need to consider, does it really need to be wrapped in plastic or placed inside a moulded plastic hang-sell? Not only does this save on packaging materials but also on shipping.
Where possible create the packaging from recycled materials. There are loads of options out there these days, from recycled paper and card stocks to plastic bottles made from plant wastage rather than oils. These solutions are the way forward if we are to be more sustainable.
Make the package recyclable. Packaging has such a limited life span that wherever possible we should make sure it can be recycled, if it can go on to lead another life rather than adding to landfill then it’s a good outcome. If it’s easy to recycle then even better. Bottles and containers that can easily be cleaned have a much better chance of being put in the recycle bin, so making this a product feature is an advantage. The finish of a product can also make a difference. Whilst glossy coatings are necessary for some packaging to protect the contents, we need to remember this can affect whether or not it is recyclable.
Get creative and make the package reusable. I have a beautiful box at home that I once received with a set of coffee mugs inside. It has a lovely design on the exterior and is made from sturdy cardboard. I loved it so much it has now been re-purposed as a storage box. I also re-purpose quality tins and jars. If packaging can be meaningfully reused, it’s a winner.
I believe packaging should be about so much more than protecting an object or making it beautiful. If it can make use of one or more of the ideas above then great, if it can make use of all of them then even better!