As mentioned in our previous post on Eco-Friendly packaging,the question was asked, “how can we develop the most cost effective packaging solutions that will fit into the design, marketing and functional needs?” Well, a big part of that equation comes in the form of plastic. Plastic has been great for consumers and without a doubt, has allowed human kind to progress beyond anyone’s predictions.
However, today we are literally choking on the stuff and we need to find alternatives and more ways to recycle and reuse ASAP.
In this post we will provide examples of some businesses currently recycling conventional plastics as well as those who now using, or are beginning to explore, biodegradable plastic as an alternative. In addition, there are those who advocate a shift in the way we do business which may also be a part of the answer to realizing new business models that are profitable and environmentally responsible.
In the not too distant future it is predicted that many, if not most, manufacturers will embrace using biodegradable plastic for products and packaging, not because it’s eco-friendly, but more importantly because it will make good business sense. We are well aware that the environmental hazards of plastic trash are growing exponentially, therefore it’s imperative (after being with us for 100 or so years) that we find alternatives to oil and natural gas based plastics.
As marketers and brand leaders who understand the importance of consumer packaging across the marketing mix, we’re also interested to see how retail industries will begin employing more biodegradable and recycled packaging.
We recognize that it comes down to simple economics of cost and practicality as much as function, convenience and of course brand image, but much like the public movement to rid styrofoam of CFC’s back in the late 1980′s, there also needs to be a new movement to ensure all, or most, packaging becomes recyclable, biodegradable and/or re-used.
While walking the local grocery isle one may often be perplexed by the variety of packaging that seems to use more materials than what is required to safely contain, seal and promote the product. Excess plastic, cardboard and non-functional design make some of these products difficult to purchase and from a consumer’s point of view (POV) it could appear that the brand really didn’t put that much effort into its packaging strategy beyond cost and utility.
The folks at Frito Lay are making a good start by promoting their new eco-friendly and compostable Sun Chips bags, but why aren’t they extending this practice to all their packaging? (Frito Lay’s first attempt in 2010 caused a major stir in the marketplace when the new packaging made too much noise so the new bags were temporarily halted. In 2011 the company regrouped and came back with a superior product package that was less noisy.)
The Frito Lay division in Canada did a great job of promoting the first Sun Chips bag by being humorous about the noise while keeping on message with the composting aspect.
The Mounting Problems
There is so much “recyclable” stuff in our landfills and plastic in our oceans often because we’re too lazy and it’s too inconvenient to recycle. According to Wasteonline.org: “Packaging can be defined as materials used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery, and presentation of goods.
Packaging can be divided into three broad categories:
Primary packaging is the wrapping or containers handled by the consumer.
Secondary packaging is the term used to describe larger cases or boxes that are used to group quantities of primary packaged goods for distribution and for display in shops.
Transit packaging refers to the wooden pallets, board and plastic wrapping and containers that are used to collate the groups into larger loads for transport, which facilitates loading and unloading of goods.
Because of its large volume, packaging waste tends to be very visible. Approximately 70% of primary packaging is used for food and drink which is often discarded in a dirty state and contaminated by residues of the original contents of the original contents. Each of these three groups needs to be reviewed with an eye on being environmentally sound.
Getting the Message out on Alternative Packaging
There are several websites that share important information on environmentally responsible packaging (e.g. American Retail Supply, Molded Fiber) but the mainstream consumer isn’t going to go out of his/her way to purchase everyday products based on whether or not it has environmentally friendly packaging.
The packaging industry as a group therefore needs to make these vital changes. How then can we develop the most cost effective environmentally packaging solutions that will fit in with marketing and functionality needs? Part of the solution will be educating consumers to automatically recycle and re-use most of what we use. Another way to generate more interest is to keep the issues in front of the consumer via traditional and social media.
Speak up on Packaging
For those who are interested in learning the latest news and happenings from an insiders view, there is an excellent resource online for both consumers and industry professionals called Package SPEAK where industry facts and FAQ’s can be found as well as insightful articles and opportunities for comments are open to all.
Who’s Doing it Right?
Again, how can we find ways to do the right thing by making packaging cost effective, marketable and functional as well as being environmentally friendly? Those who are able to effectively solve this puzzle will no doubt be looking at the issue from a closed-loop sustainability POV where both the product end life cycle (including the packaging) will use less materials and involve recycling, re-using or ensuring it’s biodegradable.
We would welcome the thoughts and recommendations from packaging industry experts: