Insights by AUSPACK

Michael Grima AUSPACK 2019 sustainability packaging

The time to move to sustainable packaging is now, says design expert

Posted on September 6th, 2019 in Insights by AUSPACK

Sustainability is a major talking point in society at the moment. Recycling, in particular, is the subject of countless articles, blog posts and TV series. Due to consumer demand, businesses around Australia are looking for ways to become more eco-friendly.

Michael Grima, director of qDesign Enterprises, spoke at the 2019 AUSPACK Business and Industry Conference about the sustainability targets and opportunities for Australian manufacturers in the coming years.

Moving from linear to circular economy

A big talking point at the AUSPACK conference was the government-backed targets for 2025. Those goals include making sure that all packaging in the country is recyclable and that the amount that is actually recycled vastly increases.

To do that, Michael says that manufacturers need to move away from a linear economy with their packaging and into a circular economy – where materials are reused and stay within the system and out of landfill.

He said, “Every single brand has a 2025 charter of being 100% recyclable and be part of the global aim of going circular, but when it comes to the action part, this is still the sentiment – they’re locked into a contract or a supplier.”

“We are going through a latency problem. We know there’s a problem, we want to try and improve it. It’s about being aware of it and thinking about what we can change to move closer to the ideal mark.”

Educating and engaging consumers on sustainability choices

Consumers want sustainability in their products but, for the most part, Michael says they are generally very lazy acting on it.

This is where it pays for brands to take the lead and make it easier for them. Using recyclable materials in packaging is a welcome move and one that makes customers happier. By doing this, the manufacturing industry can move into the position it wants to be while pleasing customers and leaving a positive legacy.

It doesn’t stop there, though. Manufacturers should take the next step to have their products clearly labelled and to educate their consumers on what they should do with the packaging when they’re looking to dispose of it.

Michael said “How do we educate consumers on macro-environmental trends? We do it by our packaging medium and selection. If I go back a few years, look at Seventh Generation when they started to disrupt the laundry category by bringing in moulded pulp bottling with an inner bag liner.”

“It was starting the narrative, maybe 12 or 13 years ago, where they started to replace heavy-duty polyethylene-type bottles on shelf and started to bring more a sustainable queue into play. It’s overt, it’s good for the environment – it says ‘buy me’.”

Collaboration is key to success

A big theme of Michael’s talk was about collaboration. Very few companies are set up to tackle all aspects of the circular economy themselves, but by partnering with other businesses, they can come up with a system that means they can quickly adopt the circular economy approach.

He said, “Collaboration is the way forward. We’ve got Loop, a development that TerraCycle has created with UPS, and has a business model where they’ve partnered with brands around the world. They’ve flipped single-use packaging approach and almost brought back the old ‘milkman’ approach.”

“Collaboration – it’s in the guidelines. It’s been there for a few years. The solution is not a silver bullet, the solution is not just the government putting something through. The solution is definitely collaboration.”

Take responsibility and plan as a company

Michael gave the example of Fuji-Xerox who have been pioneers in e-waste recycling since 1995. They had the vision and forethought to think about what their products were doing at the end of their lives and put systems in place to be better for the environment.

He said, “They’ve mapped it out. They’ve gone through the basic steps: their resource harvesting, making the product and delivering to the customer, which is where our packaging sits right now when we deliver to marketplace.”

He then listed some of the learnings from this 25-year-old circular economy model:

  1. They took responsibility – they didn’t wait for a government initiative
  2. They started own integrated recycling network, working with partners
  3. They created a secondary value for their products
  4. They had design intent for all their products

Three key takeaways:

  • Consumers want sustainability but are generally lazy, so make it easy for them.
  • To meet sustainability goals, we need to think in terms of a circular economy.
  • Collaboration with other organisations is key to meeting targets.

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