We’ve seen the future – and it’s looking mighty green. Environmental concerns are going mainstream and a growing demographic of consumers are expecting companies to add renewable elements to their products and business models.
So, what sustainable packaging options should you be looking out for? Innovations such as ‘smart’ biodegradable technologies are set to clean up the world’s carbon footprint. We take a brief look at some of the changes that are already in motion.
Consumer overlords Procter & Gamble became the latest global giant to brag about its green credentials by announcing plans to produce special edition Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles made from up to 25% recycled beach plastic. The move follows that of Adidas, who released a limited run of trainers made with recycled Parley Ocean Plastic.
The use of plastics from beaches and oceans marks something of a technological breakthrough. Previously, degradation of the plastics made them poor recycling material. Now new advancements open up the potential for even challenging materials to one day become recyclable.
Bioplastics offer a compostable alternative to those made from non-renewable, oil-based resources. Vegware Ltd, an Edinburgh-based eco packaging company, was the first firm in the UK to make its entire product range compostable. Their tableware, takeaway packaging, cups and cutlery are all made from plants, trees, corn and sugar cane, which are sustainably sourced, low carbon and can be recycled with food waste.
They also set up The Food Network to help connect businesses with suitable food waste recycling facilities.
Biome Bioplastics is one of the UK’s leading bioplastic developers. Their 100% biodegradable products use a range of renewable feedstocks and as few GM materials as possible. What’s more, their plant-based 3D printer filament, Biome3D, signals another step towards the future of sustainable manufacturing.
Another key player in the UK’s bioplastic business is Biopac. The brand use polylactic acid (PLA) from renewable resources like corn starch to make their compostable, biodegradable cups and food packaging. Not too proud to boast, two of their products – ‘I am not a plastic cup’ and ‘I’m a green cup’ – send a very clear message about their eco credentials.
In early 2016, The Body Shop announced their partnership with Newlight Technologies, a company who produce plastic made from greenhouse gases. The plastic, known as AirCarbon™ is created using methane collected from farms and natural gas refineries. The methane is then placed in a reactor with special enzymes that absorb the carbon and oxygen, and turn the particles into a solid plastic.
Initially AirCarbon™ is being used to make the lids and containers of The Body Shop’s range of body butters. By 2020, the brand expects that this eco-friendly packaging will reduce its use of plastics made from crude oil by at least 70 percent.
New York-based company, Ecovative, has developed a mushroom-based material that offers an alternative to plastic packaging foams like expanded polystyrene. Made with a mix of agricultural waste and mycelium (fungus filaments), it can be used for insulation or to package food and drink. It can even be turned into a certified sustainable form of engineered wood.
In 2016, London tech startup, Skipping Rocks Lab, won a UK Energy Globe Award for its edible water capsule. The Ooho! is made from a seaweed derivative called sodium alginate, which forms a biodegradable double membrane strong enough to hold water. The capsule’s energy efficiency and low weight presents the potential for reducing the environmental impact of transporting heavier plastic and glass containers.
Approaching edible materials from a slightly different angle are the creators of LOLIWARE, the world’s first biodegr(edible) cup. Made from seaweed, organic sweeteners, and colours and flavours derived from fruits and vegetables, the cup can hold room temperature, cold or frozen drinks and can be refilled multiple times. Its inventors are hoping to expand into producing edible water bottles, tableware and packaging.
When it comes to aesthetic ingenuity, Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine takes things to the next level. Their unusual design series – This Too Shall Pass – follows the idea that packaging can have the same short life span as the foods within. Their oil packaging, for instance, is made with wax-coated caramelised sugar. Once the material is cracked open and the sugar interior exposed, it can be quickly melted down using just water.
Polish designer Maja Szcypek came up with a new idea for sustainable egg boxes. Her ‘Happy Eggs’ packaging is made of hay that is heat-pressed into carton shapes. The eco-friendly concept landed Maja a place in the 2013 final of the Make Me! competition.
This techniques does away with the need for sticky plastic labels on fruit and veg. A high definition laser removes pigment from the outer layer of the product’s skin, leaving a branding mark that doesn’t affect shelf-life or flavour.
In January 2017, Dutch fruit and veg distributor Nature & More announced their partnership Swedish supermarket ICA to replace labels on organic avocados and sweet potatoes. In the UK, M&S will be trialling the same sustainable technique on its coconuts.
Agents of change
Come across any other great sustainable packaging solutions? Please comment in the box below and then share this post to keep others in the loop.
If you’re feeling inspired, Cradle 2 Cradle is a non-profit organisation that provides certifcation to manufacturer’s who have displayed a clear and tangible ongoing commitment to sustainability and to their communities.
There are many different options to help build your brand through your packaging. Contact the Orchard House team to discuss your design and branding opportunities.