Is the perfect package a myth?
Packaging is ubiquitous, and for good reason. It provides us with a safe, convenient, and highly effective means to store, transport, and market an almost limitless array of goods. Not all containers are created equally, however; there are several advantages to using environmentally sustainable packaging. Still, it can be difficult to hit the sweet spot where sustainability and profitability intersect, prompting the pressing question: Does the perfect package really exist?
It’s a difficult question, but I’ve found that the most successful businesses in the packaging industry are the ones most actively searching for an answer - sometimes in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily imagine. Take TerraCycle’s partner Method, for example. Method makes recyclable packages from up to 100% recycled plastic and offers several home products that are C2C, or “cradle-to-cradle,” certified. What’s more, Method and other businesses in pursuit of the perfect package take “good” and make it even better. Just this month Method launched a line of products made from “Ocean Plastic” washed up on Hawaiian beaches.
Better packaging isn’t always just about packaging. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Here’s another way of saying it: “how” you package is just as important as “what” you package. Let’s take a look at Method again, this time with a specific focus on its new, ultra-concentrated detergents. By increasing the potency of its cleaning products, Method was able to reduce the total amount of packaging needed to store and sell them per bottle, resulting in a 35% smaller carbon footprint. Furthermore, Method offers refill pouches for most of their cleaning goods, encouraging product reuse.
These are good examples of how companies can effectively reduce, reuse, and recycle how and what they package. That’s just the first step toward developing the perfect package. The next step is just as important, if not more; it’s typically called a life cycle assessment, or “LCA” for short, and it’s a crucial strategy in sustainable business. Essentially, an LCA is a sustainability assessment that accounts for every stage within a product’s supply chain. Sourcing, shipping, selling, and everything after and in-between all present opportunities to make your business more cost-effective and sustainable.
LCA’s allow us to pinpoint and eliminate inefficiencies throughout the supply chain, essentially saving money by cutting unnecessary costs. Not only that, however, they can help to generate revenue. Let’s take a look at the pouch package design, for example. A recent study by The Freedonia Group has predicted that the demand for pouches in the U.S. will see an annual increase of 5.1%, reaching $8.8 billion in 2016. Freedonia credits this rise in pouch popularity to “superior aesthetic appeal, portability, light weight, reduced material use, and significantly lower shipping costs than rigid containers.”
Immediately, we can point out three stages of a pouch’s life cycle that have been optimized by adopting sustainable business practices: “reduced material use” during sourcing, “significantly lower shipping costs” and “aesthetic appeal” to aid in selling the product. To take it one step further, pouches (or any sort of packaging) can often be recycled or upcycled through companies like TerraCycle when municipal programs fall short. Of course, if the package is also designed for reuse, that’s even better.
So, does perfect packaging really exist? I believe it does, but more as an idea than anything else. Striving to create a practical, profitable, and, above all else, sustainable package is what brings going green and making green together.