In the realm of product packaging, plastic has reigned supreme for years, offering unmatched convenience and versatility. However, the consequences of plastic packaging, including environmental pollution and ecological damage, have become alarmingly apparent. With packaging waste contributing significantly to solid waste, the need for a shift towards eco-friendly solutions has become paramount, ushering in the era of sustainable food packaging in the catering industry.
Source: Reward Hospitality
Understanding the Essence of Sustainable packaging
Sustainable packaging, simply put, refers to packaging that safeguards human health and the environment. It’s a concept firmly rooted in the principles of the circular economy, where the packaging cycle mimics the natural world. This not only minimizes waste but also maximizes resource utilization.
APCO’s Sustainable Packaging Principles referred to as ‘the Principles,’ serve as a valuable compass for evaluating both existing and new packaging, illuminating pathways for enhancement.
These 10 fundamental Principles stand as beacons for advancing sustainability within packaging design and procurement:
- Design for recovery. The quality of recycling and the use of recycled materials is essential in a circular economy, which aims to keep materials in use for as long as possible.
- Optimise material efficiency. It aims to reduce material consumption and associated environmental impacts in the packaging lifecycle by optimising the volume and weight of packaging.
- Design to reduce product waste. The aim is to design packaging to eliminate or reduce avoidable product waste. This includes information on the label to assist consumers to reduce waste.
- Eliminate hazardous materials. The aim is to avoid using hazardous substances that could be toxic to humans or other living organisms.
- Use recycled materials. The aim is to optimise the amount of recycled content in packaging, considering technical feasibility, consumer acceptability, regulatory requirements.
- Use renewable materials. The aim is to support a circular economy for packaging by optimising the proportion of materials that are renewable.
- Design to minimise litter. The aim is to design any package that tends to be found in the litter stream (such as fast food and beverage packaging) to reduce the likelihood of it becoming litter.
- Design for transport efficiency. Packaging should be designed to maximise the efficiency of transport through lightweighting, fully utilising shipping space (‘cubing out’) and using bulk packaging for distribution including business to business packaging (B2B) where appropriate.
- Design for accessibility. For packaging to be accessible, it must be designed to be easy for the consumer to open, have legible labelling, and not compromise safety or quality.
- Provide consumer information on sustainability. The aim is to provide clear information or advice about any claims made about appropriate disposal or environmental attributes of the packaging (e.g. recycled content or sustainable sourcing of materials) on the packaging or packaged product.
Source: Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation
Fueling Progress: Australia’s Sustainable Packaging Industry
Australia’s rapid strides in sustainable packaging are not only transforming industries like daily chemicals, food, and pharmaceuticals but also stimulating the growth of the packaging sector. The emphasis here is on using packaging materials that are safe, non-toxic, and easily recyclable or biodegradable post-use.
Crafting Sustainable Designs
Creating sustainable packaging involves careful consideration and design that aligns with environmental concerns. Here’s how:
Functionality Analysis: Understand the functions and attributes of the packaged goods and evaluate whether the packaging efficiently fulfils these functions while minimizing material and energy consumption.
Material and Functional Structure: Delve into the functional and material structure of the product. Analyse the shape, volume, transportation needs, and purpose of use. Consider whether packaging materials and design are aligned with the product’s purpose.
Mindful Material Use: Examine packaging materials, their composition, detachability, and recyclability. Strive to reduce material variety for easier sorting and recycling. Aim to minimize material usage, volume, and weight.
Holistic Graphic Representation: In graphics and text, prioritize environmental messaging. Incorporate elements like patterns, colours, and text that resonate with aesthetic preferences while conveying sustainability values.
The shift towards sustainable packaging isn’t just a trend; it’s a necessity. By choosing sustainable packaging, businesses and consumers alike contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future. It’s a step towards preserving our environment while embracing innovation. As the curtains rise on this new chapter in packaging, it’s an opportunity for us all to make a meaningful impact – one package at a time.