In a previous article, we discussed some retail trends related to packaging, including e-commerce optimization and plastic-free packaging. The commitment to reduce the use of plastic in packaging has now become simply a matter of “when,” not “if.” CPG giants, including The Coca-Cola Company, MARS, PepsiCo, and Unilever have pledged to use 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.
In fact, the impact caused by reducing single-use plastic is more significant than can actually be seen. When Unilever created CIF ecorefill – made with 75 percent less plastic – the company allowed the consumer to attach the refill and use the spray bottle indefinitely. More importantly, it also contributed to diminishing the ecological footprint with the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, a result of fewer trucks circulating on the roads due to the water transportation decrease.
Fighting Single-Use Plastic
According to the respondents of a Mintel study conducted in the UK, plastic pollution has become the most critical environmental issue. Addressing this problem is one of the most urgent matters of our time, which explains why the concept of circular economy is now en vogue.
The circular economy model counters today’s predominant linear economy model, based on the take-make-waste approach, which depletes finite resources and generates more waste than the planet can handle. The circular economy model, on the other-hand, preaches the design of waste and pollution out of the system, keeping products and material in use and regenerating natural systems. As a consequence, companies and designers have become extremely creative in coming up with solutions to tackle the waste and pollution problem.
After committing to adopt the circular economy model by 2025, the French water brand Evian has recently created a water dispenser called (Re)new. The 5L bubble, which is part of the appliance that holds the water, is made of 100 percent recycled plastic and uses 66 percent less plastic compared to a 1.5L Evian bottle.
Edible packaging, which has been gaining much traction recently, is another excellent example. Plastic straws seem to be the public enemy number one these days – cities around the world are banning them and many companies, including Starbucks, plan to cease offering them in the coming years. Disposable manufacturers such as the UK-based Herald Plastic are leveraging this trend and creating edible straws, available in a wide range of flavors.
Skipping Rocks Lab, another UK company, created the Ooho capsules, which are edible drink pouches that can be filled with water or other beverages. Made from seaweed and plants, the capsules are as biodegradable as fruits.
Not all edible packaging is suitable for humans, though – well, at least not until they are dissolved in water. Avani, a company based in Indonesia, created from cassava roots and other natural resins a 100 percent compostable bag. It disappears with the help of macro and micro-organisms, offering no harm to animals or humans if diluted in water.
Also addressing the sustainability issue, another trend is “plantable packaging,” which consists of embedded seeds in the packaging material so plants and flowers can grow after the product is used and the packaging is buried. Pangea Organics was a pioneer and created the first 100 percent compostable and plantable packaging. Manufactured in a zero-waste facility, the packaging is created entirely from post-consumer paper board, without using glues or dyes. Product cartons are printed with plant-based inks, and the company is also the first in the world to use, in all plastic tubes, bio-resin that is 100 percent made from sugarcane.
If Not for The Environment, Do It For Your Customers
In 2008, the market research firm TrendWatching coined the term “Expectation Economy” to describe an economy of increasing customer’s expectation. Along with rising quality and personal expression, one of the pillars of the Expectation Economy is positive impact: consumers are now aware of the environmental and social implications of their consumption, so they look for brands that offer products that they can enjoy without guilt. On top of that, consumers pursue self-improvement through consumption, so they expect brands to help them to be the best version of themselves.
Therefore, if not by conviction, brands will likely adopt more sustainable packaging by necessity, as a response to consumers’ basic need to feel better about themselves (guilt-free consumption) and to resolve their tension regarding the impact of their purchases. Consumers expect brands to live and act according to shared values, so their rising concern about damages to the environment will definitely force brands to adopt more sustainable packaging as a means to create a positive impact in the world.