How to make packaging more sustainable

26 May 2022

When designing and manufacturing a product to be launched to market, packaging should never be an afterthought. Packaging design is a huge part of the process - and arguably is more important today than ever before.

Manufacturers have never been under more pressure to find new ways to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. Our planet’s consumption is rising daily, meaning that more and more packaging is being used and discarded. So, what can brands do to make packaging more sustainable?

Reduce the amount of packaging.

Of course, making sure your product is well protected is really important, but consider the environmental impact of the amount of packaging being used. Overpackaging is a real issue and a big contributor to environmental waste. 

But tackling this issue is not as simple as just reducing the amount of packaging you use. This is particularly evident in the food industry where manufacturers must find a balance between protecting food from the likes of moisture, heat, odours and pests, keeping it fresh and undamaged whilst being mindful not to overpackage. 

Overpackaging is something that angers ever-increasingly conscious consumers and many wasteful brands have been publicly shamed for it in the past, damaging their reputation. We’ve all seen fruit in the supermarket sitting in a plastic box, wrapped in a plastic film and cereal found in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. However, consumers also don’t want to purchase or receive products that are damaged due to underpackaging. Similarly, some retailers may reject an entire shipment even if just one unit is damaged – and wasted product is actually more detrimental to the planet than wasted packaging.

So, how do brands combat this? Whether it’s eliminating unnecessary layers of packaging or reshaping it to better fit products, reducing packaging is all about optimising storage and minimising void space. It’s not just about how much material is used, but also how the packaging functions. Through packaging automation solutions, Sewtec are helping global brands reduce the amount of packaging they use, in turn reducing their business costs and enticing consumers. Reducing packaging often requires out-of-the-box thinking – something our team specialise in.

Design for reuse.

Single-use plastic and single-use items, in general, are a real issue. They feed into a linear economy and a throw-away culture. For a sustainable society, we need to move towards a circular economy and a ‘reduce, ‘reuse’, ‘recycle’ model, keeping materials in use for as long as possible.

Reusable packaging has been seen across many sectors and has gained popularity in recent years. Many brands within the food and home sectors, for example, have offered consumers reusable packaging for products such as laundry detergent, biscuit tins and spice jars with the idea that only refills will be needed to be purchased in future. When designing for reuse, think of packaging as containers that, once they have fulfilled their primary use of protecting and presenting a product for sale, can continue to be containers for refills of products or something else entirely.

If you want your packaging to stay in use for perhaps even years to come, there are a few factors to consider in terms of design. Most importantly, the material used must be strong enough to withstand at least several reuses. It must also be able to be washed if necessary. The branding and design of the product also becomes more important. You want your consumers to feel like this is something worth holding onto, so keep it’s aesthetic at the forefront.

Use more sustainable packaging materials.

When it comes to packaging, plastic is certainly deemed the ultimate villain. However, there are a lot of good things about plastic when used in packaging; it preserves food, it’s lightweight, it’s sterile and it’s strong and durable. The issue is single-use plastics. Nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced each year and this is growing at an annual rate of 9%. In Europe alone, the demand for plastic is closer to 50 million tonnes a year and 40% of this is used for packaging. Plus, this is almost entirely single-use plastic.

Today in the UK, the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) is forcing organisations to rethink their plastic use and rely on recyclable plastics where possible instead. Whilst on paper this seems like a good idea, the PPT does not come without its challenges. For instance, some sectors such as  medical, food and beverage are bound by laws and regulations which means that recycled content often cannot be used due to hygiene and human consumption reasons. 

With the pressure of the PPT amongst industry regulations, many brands are having to think innovatively about how to package their products and the materials they use in order to stay competitive and reduce their carbon footprint. Not only this, but it’s what consumers want. Packaging that utilises sustainable materials and presents a sustainable aesthetic is sure to be more enticing on the shelves against less sustainable competitors.

Ultimately, moving towards more sustainable materials may involve a total rethink of your packaging. Sewtec have the expertise and innovation to invent the packaging automation solutions you need in order to use less plastic and more recycled and raw materials.

Sustainable packaging is no longer a trend or gimmick. It’s vital for businesses to embrace and that’s why we are turning our attention to creating innovative and alternative packaging automation solutions for our customers.

Are you ready to make your packaging more sustainable? Do you need innovative experts in your corner to help you find the solutions to take your product’s packaging to the next level? At Sewtec, we can help. 

We have an in-house Design and Engineering team that can carry out Design for Manufacture studies (DMF) and a Research and Development team to test new packaging concepts with our in-house machinery. We can also carry out glueing and taping trials with your samples, liaise with your chosen packaging material suppliers and advise on suitable material structure and sizing.

Get in touch with us today and let’s talk about how we can help you do better for you, the planet and your customers.