From a sustainability perspective, it is better to protect a product too much, rather than not enough. For most product-packaging combinations, less than 10% of their environmental impact can be attributed to the packaging. The product usually has a far greater environmental impact than its packaging. When developing sustainable product-packaging combinations, it is about finding the right balance between protecting the product and the packaging method.
It is important to properly fit the product and its packaging. In some cases, a minor modification of the product can make it easier to package. One example is IKEA. For many pieces of IKEA furniture, the question of how the disassembled products can be packaged efficiently is taken into account during the design stage. Using optimised product-packaging combinations, complex products can be delivered to consumers without any damage and with the use of minimal packaging and simple materials.
The packaging and the product
Sustainable product-packaging combinations are always the result of the right combination of product properties and packaging properties. When making a packaging more sustainable, it is important to first prevent product loss, avoid product wastage, and guarantee the safety of the user and the environment. Most of the environmental impact of a product-packaging combination is caused by the product itself; around 10% of the total environmental impact is caused by the packaging. Once all these aspects have been optimally safeguarded, you can explore options to make the packaging more sustainable. Examples include reducing the amount of material used or using sustainable material applications, without compromising the packaging functionality.
Improving the sustainability of packaging is more than simply reducing the amount of material used. The following measures will make packaging more sustainable as well:
- preventing the wastage of raw materials during its production;
- tailoring the packaging to fit the product that will be transported in it;
- using as many renewable or recycled materials as possible for its production;
- using sustainable technologies and energy during its production;
- setting up the logistical process as efficiently as possible and avoiding the transport of empty air.
That is why it is important to take each of the following aspects into consideration when developing a sustainable packaging solution: product protection, food safety, effective product usage en measuring sustainability.
Round Table Discussion - Product losses and packaging, an ample balance
Paper – published by Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging