September 20, 2018 /Industry

Be Sustainable or Be Irrelevant

Be sustainable or irrelevant was the message our chairman Michael Sheridan shared at Packaging Innovations last week.

We have arrived at a point where 95% of plastic packaging (worth $80-120bn annually) is lost to the economy after a single use. Yet, the problem extends beyond financial loss. The plight is environmental. To date, despite the recycling symbol, only 14% of plastic used in packaging is recycled. The problem we face is imminent.

At present, eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans annually. If no action is taken, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This year, plastic has come under intense scrutiny. Consequently, 2018 saw that plastic was awarded ‘material of the year’.

Brands across all consumer industries have been rebelling against the use of single-use plastic. 1 Rebel in London opened their first zero single-use gym. Back in May at NYCxDESIGN, Linda Bergroth’s work with the Finnish design shop was a notable and celebrated example of how trash can become a prized material. The collaboration resulted in a bistro that was made using recycled materials. Resounding in the sentiment that ‘one man’s trash, is another person’s treasure’, the thought-provoking design sought to inspire people to reconsider the way they live, eat and consume.

Consumers are savvier than ever before and are using their spending power to illustrate their environmental awareness. As such, consumers want to interact with brands that showcase green credentials and social consciousness.


It's no longer enough to create packaging that is just visually engaging.

Empowering consumer ambition to care for the planet is crucial. Brands have no choice but to create sustainable strategies: as retail designers and brand communicators, it is our responsibility to design with sustainability in mind.

To innovate, we must begin by asking questions. For instance, how can we inspire behaviour change to combat against the use of single use plastic. How can we use trash as material for creativity and generate a world fully defined by a circular design. An illustration of this is beauty brand Optiat, who use coffee waste to create a new product. We must ask ourselves how this philosophy can then apply to packaging. This sentiment has been echoed in the beverage industry, most notably with the rise of keep-cups.

When possible, brands must start asking whether there is an opportunity to go packaging less. Lush’s naked packaging is a prime example of this, whereby the brand added an ingredient to their products that meant they became solid and no longer needed a container. This confirms that a brand’s story can come to life in intangible assets. There is great potential and value in the things we don’t see.

In the future, we must see less packaging or packaging that can at least be repurposed or reused. Brands must design with values, and show a commitment to ethical design.

Key Takeaways

Embrace circular design thinking. How can packaging created and designed for reuse?

How can your brand embrace responsible design thinking and help shape an environmentally safe future?

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