Redesign (packaging)

Integrated design to optimize multiple variables

There is an ecosystem of packaging, involving the foods themselves, the supply chain logistics, firm and consumer behaviour, accessibility, information, resource extraction and lifecycle costs.  We need all these dimensions to be integrated and optimized at the redesign stage.  Optimization is challenging and we do not yet have the data and experience to help us deal with the all the potential conundrums. LCAs have only been able to address part of this, often focused either on the packaging, or the food / packaging combination.  At this stage we want low impact foods in low impact packaging, though not all products will be able to achieve this. We need packaging informed by:

  • Full circular economy - there is no waste
  • Low extraction packaging
  • Shifting packaging requirements with short food supply chains
  • Universal design for accessibility

The criteria for sustainable packaging at this stage (adapted from Wikipedia):

  • Use of minimal materials, including water, especially those with high social and environmental extraction costs – reduced packaging, reduced layers of packaging, lower mass (product to packaging ratio), and lower volume;
  • Energy efficient, low total energy content and usage, developed with clean and renewable energy;
  • Significant recycled content – with special  considerations for food grade packaging;
  • Reusable packaging;
  • End-of-use recyclability– recovery value, made with easily recycled materials;
  • Use of biodegradable and compostable materials, with waste management streams that support use of such materials; biodegradable required in certain applications
  • Not toxic to humans or the environment;
  • Safe for workers.
  • Focus on core nutritional and environmental information rather than brand identify (see Goal 1 consumer information)

The packaging industry does have something of a design manual tradition (cf. Sustainable Packaging Coalition, 2006; The Consumer Goods Forum, 2011APCO, 2020), and over time, the new knowledge and experience will be reflected in these and related documents.