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Creating more sustainable packaging systems

In a previous article I have suggested some ideas to consider for improving your package design in general. In this one I would like to introduce you to the complex world of sustainability as far as package design is concerned and suggest some ways to make your packaging more sustainable.

Did you know that our present methods of production, consumption and disposal are actually destroying globally our life support system?

Well you don’t have to take my word on it, you can always spend some time researching and contemplating on that.
If you design packaging or want to learn more about package design, you should be aware by now that packaging is not about the structural graphics only, but also of form and materials. You should fully be aware and understand that your choices of materials and material applications have impact and consequences to our natural habitat.

You might be thinking that packaging requires the coordination of numerous industries, but rather than worry and be alarmed by this complexity you should be happy because as the designer you have many ways to reduce the negative impacts of packaging in the environment. As a package designer you are the one who should be knowledgeable and advice your client about these matters.

Sustainability requires us to understand this world as the complex system it is, and interact accordingly.
Here are some things to consider:

Try to use higher percentages of post-consumer recycled content. This encourages the the efficiency and development of collection systems by creating more demand, and is already is significantly reducing energy consumption and deforestation.
Explore the tree-free alternatives such as fast growing plants and agricultural by-products. Plants like hemp, switch grass, kenaf and straw, grow quickly, they need less water and fewer chemicals. Also from a marketing standpoint they provide more innovative opportunities to create unique and more interesting lines of “paper”.

Use papers from certified pulp sources this ensures that everyone in the supply chain gets fair share of the profits. FSC provides this kind of certifications for any wood derived materials. They monitor the sustainability of timber growth and harvest, as well as indigenous peoples and workers rights.

Use less ink coverage. The more ink consumed in the process the more will be the post-industrial and post-consumer waste to recycle the package.

Approximately 20% of the Pantone colors contain especially harmful chemicals. For example metallic colors contain high levels of copper and zinc compounds while many reds contain barium. Fluorescent colors also have a high toxic load.
Investigate and request soy based, or other vegetable produced inks. Soy printing in terms of performance has a higher level of rub resistance thus resulting in less dot gain than petroleum based inks. Soy pigments are much more intense requiring less ink to achieve the same effect. They are more easily removed from paper making the De-inking part of the recycle process more efficient. Soy ink can be cleaned with water based solvents reducing further the VOC (volatile organic compounds) that cause air pollution. Last but not least soy waste is considered much less hazardous by government standards.

Finally design packages with recycling in mind. Plastics used in the package should be easily detached from it and also marked with the proper resin symbol. We’ll further discuss this in a future article!

That’s definitely not all, but will help you get started!

Hope you enjoyed the article! I am looking forward for your comments and opinions.

Featured Image: Creative Commons – Attribution by Chris Piascik on Behance

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