Retailers, brands, and their packaging partners are all under mounting pressure to help lower our environmental impact. For those of us with a passion for innovation, this is a great time to be in the design business. And what about all those delivery trucks crowding our neighborhoods and leaving a giant carbon footprint? Nevermind, that’s for another story.
Today, I want to talk about how brands and designers are meeting the challenge with innovations that reduce packaging and increase recyclability. Specifically, recycling that capitalizes on the efficient material recycling capabilities we currently have online and are widely available. We have a long way to go with certain material types and capacity, but in the coming years that will definitely change.
A New Twist on the Most Environmentally Unfriendly Package … the Pizza Box
Consumers may not realize this, but the traditional pizza box is not recyclable. The grease contaminates the recycling stream and makes the pizza box an end-of-life package. Recycling centers routinely post signage that says, “No pizza boxes.”
But a recent collaboration between FORCEpkg and NewTwist is changing all that. The solution is the NewTwist Collapsible & Recyclable Pizza Box. The design contains a food grade, compostable/biodegradable liner that keeps grease and food by-products from absorbing into the pizza box, then the liner can simply be composted or thrown away. The box is designed to fold flat for easier recycling and is marked with the NewTwist icon. This lets recyclers know that there is a very good chance this box is OK for the recycling stream.
The collapsible, recyclable pizza box eliminates bulk for convenient recycling. Other aspects of the box structure have evolved as well. The front of the box has locking tabs that keep the box closed and a better venting system allows steam to escape, resulting in a better pizza experience at home. Now that’s “thinking outside the box” … I can’t believe I just said that.
E-Commerce … Easy-Pack, Easy-Ship, Easy-Open, Easy-Reach
E-commerce cleaning products often come with a lot of extra packing materials, making them a heavy load for the environment. We recently worked with Invisible Glass to come up with a solution that actually solves a number of problems.
Invisible Glass makes a Reach & Clean Tool that helps consumers clean their glass better, and recently launched the second generation with numerous improvements. The original tool package was a welded plastic clamshell with printed card stock components inside. The plastic was perforated on the back to open, but it created sharp edges and the tool components were not easy to remove. Also, when it came time to ship the product, an additional box and packing materials were needed. The result was a “not so premium experience” for the consumer at home and lots of packing materials that often ended up in the trash.
The new packaging actually delivers a highly upgraded unboxing experience — think iPhone or MacBook Pro. Product components are organized in layers, resulting in a controlled product reveal. The inside tray organizes product components while other components act as the packing material. The package design is all corrugated (inside tray and outer box) without the need for any additional shipping box or packing materials. The result is a single material recyclable package (made with recycled content) that functions as the “ships-in box” and in the end, delivers a better unboxing experience for the consumer.
Many retailers like Walmart have posted demands that packaging materials be fully recyclable in the next few years. Some are following Walmart’s lead and aiming for 2025. That means brands, packaging designers, and material suppliers will have to work together and get even more innovative in their design thinking.