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Plastics Today: Designing for packaging sustainability

By: Sumit Mukherjee – Chief Technology Officer of PTI

You can’t have a packaging discussion today without the environmental attributes of a given package being part of the conversation. As consumer pressure has increased, we would all agree that the discussion is front and center of most products brought to market today. If your package is perceived negatively, it will have a dramatic impact on whether or not it will become a marketplace success.

To help facilitate the conversation for package producers, here are some tips that should help guide you on the right path.

Perform an end-of-life evaluation of the package at the beginning of the design process.

Specifically, what do you want customers to do with the package after consumption? What are the package attributes/material types that will facilitate that action?

In order for the discussion to be productive, it needs align with your target consumers’ objectives. For example, is your product being sold to a consumer segment that is interested in recyclable and/or sustainable packaging? There are some demographics/market segments for which recyclability is not a major purchase driver.

If that’s the case, should you be spending time and money giving them something they don’t want? (We know that not wanting to recycle is considered blasphemous in this day and age, but there are those who still don’t want to make the effort. It’s about understanding your target market and acting accordingly.)

Conversely, if the goal is to increase packaging recyclability among consumers who are not as likely to recycle, think about incorporating an incentive to recycle/reuse it. An example would be a social media campaign that creates engagement when someone comes up with a creative way to reuse the packaging.