publicado em 27/01/2023 15:44

How will be the end of life for the packaging you are creating?

We in the industry ask ourselves daily how we can contribute to helping the consumer, and retail brands, to be more efficient in recycling the packaging available on the shelves. After all, the use of a product can be immediate – but its packaging risks remaining decades or even centuries in nature and causing disastrous consequences, which, in my point of view, makes no sense.

That's why, more than ever, the entire packaging production chain needs to be focused on something that goes far beyond profitability: it's about managing the end of a product's life! And a highly positive tool to achieve this goal is design for recycling (design for recycling) or ecodesign. It's literally about thinking outside the box.

The numbers prove the search for sustainable products: in Brazil, preference more than doubled between April 2021 and March 2022, jumping 123%, according to Mercado Livre data on online purchases. The sustainable products sector encompasses 4.3 million people from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Brazil, with Brazilians representing 40% of this slice, who purchased 7.3 million products with a positive impact on the environment.

This is a subject that demands a lot of research and hard work in laboratories, with the objective of achieving total control over the life cycle of the consumer good – which includes its packaging.

What should design for recycling consider?

The design associated with sustainable packaging takes into account everything from protection and durability on the shelf to the impact that the product will bring to humanity at the end of its trajectory. What is the cost to the planet if it is designed with only one material? And if it is made up of many, what will require different sorting and recycling techniques?

These issues must be considered from the design of the package. It must be thought and designed to be effectively recycled, and in an economically viable way. However, this is not what we find in the daily life of clipboards. What we see is little knowledge about the types of raw materials available, and, mainly, no consideration of the product's production line and packaging. I always say to designers: please propose rational solutions, because no one will modify their production line to make a package viable!

How about we start with microgoals?

A delicate point must be considered: at first, it may be impossible to eliminate a fossil material from the project. But this is not the end! How about, then, thinking about its gradual reduction? We won't be able to “turn the key” on packages across the planet automatically, but we need to start somewhere, act consciously and define achievable microgoals.

This is the case, for example, of packages that protect liquids and pastes. We know that a product with these characteristics needs protective barriers against light, oxygen and liquids, and therefore the application of polyethylene becomes necessary. The problem is that this solution makes later recycling difficult. So, an alternative is to design the packaging body in paper, which is biodegradable, recyclable and brings a competitive advantage: it has better visibility on the shelves of stores and supermarkets. Furthermore, in an ideal situation, the card has the potential to be reused for up to 25 cycles. Now that's taking care of the environment!

Easy to think that way, right? When you know the materials and their productive life, the choice of solutions becomes evident, making it possible to create effectively recyclable packaging.

  Conscious consumer

  I also appeal to designers: let's forget the use of resources such as UV varnish, plastic laminations, polyethylene and metallic effects. They actually remove the recycling argument, compromise the use of the fiber and even make it unfeasible. Even a paperboard with less chemicals or produced with renewable sources, if it receives many layers of ink and finishes, it will be difficult to recycle, apart from the increase in recycling time.

  It is worth remembering that the use of cardboard and sustainable finishes in the composition of the packages bring a rustic aspect to the material. And it is precisely this appearance that causes a different visual impact and concretely conveys the idea of sustainability. For this reason, design for recycling strengthens the product and, linked to other strategies aimed at conveying the brand's socio-environmental responsibility to the public already in the packaging, becomes a masterstroke.

  Beautiful, attractive and effective packaging is one that is good for the consumer, but mainly for the consumer who wants to leave a cleaner world for the next generations. Think about it when designing your next package!