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Packaging Design: Back To The Drawing Board

Growing consumer consciousness means sustainable brand packaging trends are entering the mainstream. Big brands are engaging with ethical and environmental ideals to create zero-waste packaging, rethink their manufacturing processes, and reinvent products entirely. In this article we examine some of the best environmental packaging examples that are taking packaging back to the drawing board. 

Designing sustainable packaging requires more than just modifying what exists. Innovative alternatives see designers creatively reinvent the product or system entirely, readdressing the conventional approach to packaging.

Sustainable Packaging Examples

Zero Packaging for Zero Waste: Due to open this summer, Original Unverpackt will be Germany’s first zero-waste supermarket. No pre-packaged food will be sold; instead, customers will be expected to bring or borrow refillable containers or use recycled paper bags. Shopping in this way also allows customers to only buy as much as they need, preventing unnecessary food waste.

Refills as Luxury: Refillable packaging has often been considered too worthy and difficult to make a real impact. However, as highlighted in Beauty Retail Trends 2014, it is emerging as an option for high-end retailers looking to highlight sustainable credentials. Perfume is a key product area for this approach, particularly as luxury glass bottles are seen as a key selling point for fragrance – both Viktor & Rolf and Thierry Mugler offer refillable perfume bottles.

Sustainable Packaging Examples

Implementing Systems: Aiming to tackle the issue of the ubiquitous paper coffee cup, Good to Go is a Brooklyn-based pilot coffee-cup scheme that borrows its strategy from the now commonplace urban bike-sharing initiatives. Customers can buy a coffee in a reusable cup from one location, and then drop it off at another once they’re finished. The cups are then washed, ready to be used again. 

Reuse to Reduce: Extending the short life of a plastic bottle, a scheme devised by advertising company Ogilvy & Mather China for Coca-Cola encourages the upcycling of plastic bottles. Sixteen different screw-on caps transform empty bottles into useful objects – including a paintbrush, pepper mill, soap dispenser and exercise weights. Initially launching in Vietnam, the scheme taps into the traditional Asian culture of reusing unwanted items, demonstrating an important awareness of the markets that would respond to this unusual solution.

Sustainable Packaging Examples

Using Every Last Drop: Preventing content wastage is a key issue for packaging – particularly in cosmetics and cleaning products. A new household cleaner spray bottle from US brand Clorox features an inbuilt tube that runs through the shell of the bottle to ensure no liquid is left behind. The bottle claims to increase usage of the product to 98%, compared with 75% for conventional cleaning spray packaging.

Sustainable Packaging Examples

Edible Alternatives: Our desire for convenience and on-the-go food is unlikely to disappear – yet what if its packaging could? SoftPack, a concept project by Portuguese designer Carlos Pereira, is a more sustainable option for single-use condiments packaging. Made from gelatine, the cells are biodegradable, compostable and edible. Previously highlighted in Strange Fruit, Spanish company Laser Food etches logos and labelling onto fruit skin as an eco-friendly alternative to stickers. This year, Marks & Spencer will become the first British retailer to trial the technology. 

This article originally featured on Stylus, as part of the Packaging Futures macro-trend.

D&AD Impact seeks to identify and celebrate great, transformative ideas that contribute towards a better, fairer and more sustainable future for all. If you think you have a campaign that makes a real and positive difference to the world then why not enter it into D&AD Impact.

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