The Sustainable Packaging exhibition showcased the best in environmentally-friendly packaging design addressing issues such as biodegradability, ink reduction, space minimization and recycled/recycling.
Twenty themes illustrate the diverse issues explored by the exhibition and conference Sustainable Packaging and Communication which was held in de Fabrique, Utrecht. Organised by Brandnew.Design, the conference brought together packaging experts, while the exhibition highlighted more than 100 Dutch and international examples of the best in sustainable packaging design today. The event is the first national symposium on sustainable packaging and communication.
From recyclable vs recycled, biodegradable vs renewable materials, less material vs space minimization, ink reduction vs natural inks, refill vs reuse and of course Cradle-to-Cradle, the exhibition demonstrated a diversity of solutions utilized in the design of sustainable packaging. Solutions differed depending on the product and the communication of the brand. Examples include the use of soy inks which can be more effectively removed from newspapers minimizing paper damage and resulting in a bright paper once recycled, using rectangular shapes that are more efficient with space, using less material in the packaging, substituting glass (which is one the heaviest packaging materials), refilling the original product and removing water from products hence reducing the size of the packaging.
Highlights included Stanley Honey (UK), packed in terracotta pots which can be reused to plant flowers (to encourage bees) and Cargo PlantLove lipstick (CAN) which is packaged in a casing made from a corn-based plastic and an outer packaging of recycled paper embedded with flower seeds. Dutch representation included PaperFoam (injection-moulded) packaging made from natural fibres and Hamphi compostable single-use plates made from naturally-shed leaves of tropical trees. Renowned Belgian water company Spa has developed new bottles made from 50% recycled material and bottles from UK cosmetics company Lush are made with 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. Customers are encouraged to bring back their bottles for recycling: five pots can be exchanged for a free Lush product.
Marcel Verhaaf, Creative Director of Brandnew.design and initiator of the event comments that the challenge in designing sustainable packaging is trying to obtaining the appropriate data. "Calculating a carbon footprint for example is a massive job, considering all aspects of the production chain. The question is, how to define the supply chain? Does the chain stop at the producer of materials or ingredients? Or do you also take in account the manufacturing process of the lorries and tractors used by the farmers of the ingredients? Or the emission of the cars used by the employees of the production plant? And so on. In addition to this it is very hard to decide which aspects of the chain have the most impact. Production, transport, handling, storage, etc."
The exhibition aimed to show that developments in sustainable packaging is not something of the distant future, but really of today. Verhaaf continues, "By showing 20 possible ways of making packaging more sustainable, the chance of offering an option that can be implemented on a short term is very high."
The exhibition will travel to Paris and Prague later this year.
The event was supported by the BNO (Association of Dutch Designers) and the NVC (Netherlands Packaging Centre).
Photography: Jan Reinier van der Vliet
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