Gauteng and NW Province

Plastics Packaging (The journey to Recyclability by Design)

Climate change and sustainable development are two of the biggest issues facing society today and are perhaps foremost in our minds, with the hosting of COP17 in Durban last year. It is increasingly important for companies to reduce the environmental impact of products and services through their entire life cycles. Those companies failing to address environmental performance in product design and development will find it increasingly difficult to compete in the global market.

Packaging can be found everywhere. It not only fulfils a functional role to contain and protect products during transportation, storage, in-store and in the consumer’s possession, but packaging has an evolved function that has an influence on the “product experience”. It is also considered an informational vehicle carrying details of the product ingredients, usage, storage, nutrition and price and is often referred to as “the silent salesman” due to its ability to influence consumers at the point of purchase and act as a form of brand communication. With sustainability foremost on one’s mind it’s imperative that packaging design is informed, not only by technical, consumer and customer needs but by resource consumption and awareness of environmental impact.

Packaging should be designed to use the minimum amount of resources for the purpose and once it has completed its job, the scope for recovery maximised.

PETCO and POLYCO recently joined forces and hosted workshops to share best practice and explore influences on the journey to “Recyclability by Design”. It is often thought that most packaging is recyclable, but the reality is that in the South African context, not all polymers are collected or recycled effectively at present. Packaging should be designed to fit the purpose whilst retaining balance and perspective. Thus the goal of improving the recyclability of the packaging cannot compromise product safety, functionality or general consumer acceptance and should positively contribute to an overall reduction in the environmental impact of the total product offering. Design for recyclability provides and opportunity for feedback loops and constant improvement.

Plastics SA Spring 2012

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