Packaging and branding have gone hand it hand for years, traditionally purely for aesthetics and protective reasons. Though, today more than ever industries have had to start changing the way their products are packaged in order to coincide with the nation’s changing attitudes towards the environment. It’s no secret there has been pressure on packaging manufactures to reduce their huge input to the waste produced by the UK each year. Did you know that the UK produces over 10million tonnes of packaging waste each year?
The EU have put strict targets in place in order to reduce this huge number, with plans to have 75% of all packaging waste recycled as standard by 2030. Of course, with 14 years still left to meet these targets the packaging industry are having to come up with innovative solutions to help with these goals.
Could Packaging Really Dissolve?
One of the most common wishes for those working in the packaging innovation industry in the last 10 years was to find the solution for dissolvable packaging. Only a short few years ago we would have seen this idea as laughable, but now the only people laughing are innovative company Cyberpac who have achieved this amazing achievement! Their pioneering product Harmless-Dissolve does just that, not only does it leave absolutely no harmful residue when dissolved it can also be added easily to the compost heap and it an amazing three times stronger than traditional polythene.
Of course, a major concern of innovate design is if it still achieves a pleasing aesthetic, with Cyberpac their packaging design can be printed on in full colour meaning any brand can stamp their unique style on it. Launches in 2014 future-forward brands, who are focused on doing no harm, such as Liz Earle and Nokia have been early advocates of this fascinating material.
Packaging from the Ground up
Polystyrene has been the enemy of Mother Nature since its invention in 1839 and today is seen typically in our to-go coffee cups, takeaway containers and the packaging balls that protect our goods that arrive in the post. Often known as “Styrofoam” this material does not biodegrade at all, creating dangerous choking hazards for wildlife and leaking toxic poison into the earth. Not only does it not break down, but the process of making Styrofoam creates a huge amount of pollution due to petroleum being used in the process. Luckily for our wildlife and the ever suffering environment polystyrene has been banned in several states in the US and alternatives are now being used in place of this toxic plastic.
Plant Starch Materials are being adopted throughout the world rather than its destructive predecessor. PSM are 100% biodegradable and are commonly grown from corn and potatoes. Much like polystyrene, plant starch material is water and heat resistant so can be used as a replacement for our typical food packaging. As they’re so lightweight it makes them the perfect solution when packaging good to travel in transit, as it reduces the carbon emissions of the carrier. Not only are these impacting positively on the environment, but these packing materials can be bought in bulk at a low cost, making them easy for smaller businesses to adopt.
Another material growing straight out of the ground is “mushroom packaging”. EcoActive are able to grow, rather than manufacture a brand new packaging material that has been adopted by tech giants like Dell. The mushroom’s thread-like roots are able to turn waste agricultural material into a product that has similar products to Styrofoam. Companies should take a leaf out of these eco-friendly brands as a recent study has highlighted that 52% of consumers saying their decision to buy is influenced by to the social responsibility of the company.
Deep Sea Solutions
If the UK has any chance of reaching the EU goals by 2030 our addiction to non-recyclable must come to an end. The lifetime of plastic is between 500 and 1000 years, all the while creating hazards to the natural environment. Designers the world over have been working tirelessly to come up with a solution, and it’s finally been found – in our oceans. Utilising the algae that we recognise as red seaweed designers have been able to create materials that decomposes completely in the environment. Much like plant based materials, agar based packaging leaves no toxicity. Although not available in the mass market yet, in the future agar is looking to replace our much loved plastic bags. Source: WDKA
Of course, all of these products are still in their early stages and are not fully adopted globally as yet, but this trend doesn’t look to be slowing down, each year technology grows bringing the ease of production and costs down meaning in the not so distant future, these technological advances will be within the reach of each company looking for new packaging solutions. By adopting these materials, not only is the planet sustained, but so is the reputation of the brands who opt to invest in these materials.