Emerging trends in sustainable packaging

TRENDAFRiCA January 30, 2013

The sustainability imperative is beginning to shape consumer behaviour and as a result, brands have to make more sustainable choices with their product, sourcing and most notably, with their packaging.

Added Value’s Dr Inka Crosswaite, said brands can also improve their sustainability credentials through packaging and several global trends are emerging.

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), packaging can only be sustainable if it:

  • Is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle.
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost.
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy.
  • Maximises the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
  • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
  • Is made from materials healthy in all possible end-of-life scenarios.
  • Is physically designed to optimise materials and energy.
  • Is effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.

For more, go to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

Crosswaite also identified several sustainable packaging trends already seen on world shelves:

  1. The power of pouches. Example: Kraft YES Pack – the packaging waste occupies 50% less landfill space. Transportation of film involves 70% fewer CO2 emissions. Made with 6 oz less water per 2/1-gal case. Discarded materials take up 86% less container space.
  2. Labelling for recovery. Example: Modern Spirits – Modern Spirits uses labels made from 100% post-consumer waste. The new labels, made from recycled paper stock, present a good appearance and feel, take ink well, and exhibit high tolerance to shipping and handling conditions
  3. Utilising new materials. Example: Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion – the hair care line introduced a plant-based bottle that is made out of sustainable sugarcane-derived plastic. It will consume over 70% less fossil fuels and release over 170% less greenhouse gases per ton.
  4. Downsizing product packaging in terms of formats and materials, as well as concentrates. Example: Marks & Spencer – The company introduced skin pack for meats which, apart from using less material, keeps the meat fresher for an extra five days. Concentrates example: Charmin compact toilet paper – 12 mega roles equal 48 regular rolls of toilet paper. The company claims that if 1 million consumers switched from Regular Charmin to Mega, it would save 85 000 gallons of diesel fuel and eliminate 500 000 pounds of trash and packaging.
  5. The return of paper. Example: Keienburg GmbH – the cardboard can developed by Keienburg in Germany enables a greener and cheaper packaging process for carbonated drinks.
  6. Reusable and refillable packs. Example: KFC – ‘Reuse. Renew. Rejoice’ is KFC’s payoff line for their reusable containers which are both dishwasher safe and microwaveable.
  7. Recyclable packs, made from recycled materials. Example: GreenBottle – GreenBottle is recyclable, compostable and biodegradable, a ‘Planet Friendly’ alternative to plastic bottles.
  8. Biodegradable or compostable packs. Example: SunChips – which uses 100% compostable packaging for its Original flavour SunChips snacks.


Source: Dr Inka Crosswaite, is a South African cultural insight and semiotics specialist with a Doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town. She works at Added Value.



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