Designing with a conscience
Being part of an industry that markets, designs or plans for advertising that can contribute to landfill, gives us an opportunity to make eco-friendly print and packaging decisions at the design and planning stages. Decisions that can positively impact the environment, ensure we’re compliant with government legislation and create positive PR opportunities with our customers. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should choose eco-friendly print and packaging options wherever possible.
1. It’s the right thing to do
Recycling is a hot topic at the moment. Mainly because now it’s our problem. China stopped the importation of 24 types of solid waste a couple of years ago which directly affected 1.3 million tonnes of Australian waste. That equates to about 4% of our recyclable waste. All of a sudden recycling was in the news, plastic bags were banned and a war on waste was declared because our waste became more visible.
Every year, 4.4 million tonnes of packaging waste is produced in Australia and 44% of this will not get recycled and end up in landfill. That’s huge. But our industry can help. Big brands that use the plastics and paper that are ending up in landfill are being held accountable. They’re calling for more eco-friendly options that don’t compromise on quality or cost and manufacturers for paper and plastic are bidding for their business. That means that there are many options on the market available.
2. The government says you should
Landfill is a problem that won’t go away without intervention which is why an “Australian senate inquiry is recommending we phase out all single use plastics nationwide by 2023” (Lockrey et al., 2019, p.12). The packaging of things like chips, plastic coffee cups, takeaway containers, plastic cutlery, plastic bags and other single use items will need to be reconsidered. But they’re not the only items on the agenda.
The inquiry is supported by the Australian National Waste Policy that has set some pretty ambitious targets in the hope of moving towards a circular economy.
Some of the key targets include:
- Diverting 80% of waste from landfill by 2030
- Making 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025
- Ensuring all packaging has an average recycled content of 30% by 2025
- Reducing the total waste generated per person by 10% by 2030
From a design perspective, this policy is meaningful in two ways:
- The policy is saying ‘we’re giving you 5 years to work out a solution for customers before your way of working is obsolete and you lose business’. This means understanding what we need to do, educating clients so that they’re on board and providing options that fit in to marketing plans.
- Behaviour and opportunity. Thinking of solutions means finding something new for our clients. Better ways of working or refreshing an existing offer, which creates opportunities with new markets and breathes new life into existing campaigns. More on this in the next point.
3. Being eco-friendly is good for your brand
A journal article into consumer perceptions of eco-designed packaging found that brands that consider their environmental and ethical impact are better valued by their consumer. The same article noted that:
- Packaging contributes to around 34% of a product’s total qualities.
- Consumers are willing to disregard all product attributes, except taste and price, in favour of eco-friendly packaging; and
- Consumers clearly favoured packaging that visibly looked eco-friendly (carton packaging, recycled label) while showing unfavourable perceptions towards non-recyclable plastic packaging.
Brands, across all industries, are increasingly designing products and services with sustainability in mind to lessen their impact on the environment. And for good reason. When recycling makes world-wide news, it tends to send a huge message to companies whose products end up front and centre in a dirty landfill photo. It’s a PR nightmare. Smart companies, however, recognise how this can impact consumer perceptions of their product. They see an opportunity, react positively, avoid or remedy the bad press, and sometimes, gain a competitive advantage.
In January 2018 the Coca Cola Company, experts at reinventing themselves, were the first in their industry to pledge that they will collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can they sell globally by 2030. That’s a huge promise for a company that reportedly manufactured over 110 billion plastic bottles in 2016. With a 71% engagement score in Australia, that’s a lot of eyeballs watching and expecting them to follow through. The genius comes from the fact that Coca Cola is obligated to conform with both the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Australian National Waste Policy by 2030. Being legally bound to think about the environment doesn’t have the same shine has ‘wanting’ to help. So, Coca Cola took the opportunity to own it, make it bigger and sell it to the masses as their initiative called ‘World Without Waste’.
It’s not just the food and beverage industry that understand the importance of the eco-friendly message. Property developments, like Deague Group’s 101 Moray, are being designed and built with health, wellness and the environment in mind, ‘Just-add-water’ cleaning products mean that less freight is required due to packaging being drastically reduced to shipping only the active ingredients; while many offices have adopted a ‘green policy’ doing simple things like swapping out fluorescent lighting, providing recycling bins, printing on both sides of paper or emailing instead.
4. There are heaps of options already available
Yep, there are quite a few paper and plastic options around that are eco-friendly without losing quality or having to pay and arm and a leg. You’ve probably printed on recycled substrates in the past without even knowing it!
Here’s are few that we like:
‘Real Dirt Bags’ (courier satchels) and ‘comPOSTlables’ (labels) are just two of the many compostable packaging solutions made by The Better Packaging Co. They look and behave just like plastic (but in an uber cool kinda way) and they are home compostable – which is ace! Big brand labels like Mr Zimmi have been “blown away by the positive responses from their customers”.
Recycled Paper Stocks
‘Envirocare’ is an uncoated stock which is very economically priced and made from 100% recycled materials. It’s suitable for all standard bulk print runs for jobs like brochures, reports, direct mailers, menu cards, booklets and clothing labels.
Cost rating: $
Weight: 80 – 300gsm
‘EcoStar’ is an uncoated, 100% recycled, FSC certified and carbon neutral paper stock. It’s one of the brightest, whitest recycled commodity stocks we recommend. Perfect for brochures, letterheads, reports and packaging.
Cost rating: $$
Weight: 80gsm – 350gsm
‘Extract’ is a premium paper stock made from recycled coffee cups. It’s definitely not a high production stock as it can get quite expensive for mass production runs but it’s perfect for high end invitations, VIP mailers and other specialty runs. It comes in a fun variety of colours and has a premium uncoated finish.
Cost rating: $$$
Weight: 130gsm – 380gsm
‘Revive Laser’ is a brilliant white, 100% recycled commodity paper stock. Manufactured to FSC accreditations and carbon neutral. It’s a versatile uncoated paper stock that can be used for brochures, reports, direct mailers, booklets and flyers.
Cost rating: $$
Weight: 80gsm – 350gsm
‘Monza Recycled’ is a coated white paper stock available in gloss and satin finish. It is made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste and it is 100% re-recyclable, closing the loop and putting us one step closer to a circular economy. You can use Monza for a wide variety of applications including booklets, flyers, brochures and reports.
Cost rating: $$
Weight: 110gsm – 350gsm
‘Wausau’ (pronounced ‘wah-s-ow’) is certified Carbon Neutral adhesive, made from 100% recycled vellum and is FSC certified. It’s mid-range facestock perfect for premium eco-friendly labelling (wine bottles, gourmet food etc)
Cost rating: $$
‘rPET plastic’ PET, or Polyethylene Terephthalate, is a grade 1 plastic, can be recycled in your household recylcling and is commonly used for food and beverage packaging. The ‘R’ in rPET stands for recycled. Manufacturers breakdown used PET into rPET flakes that can be used in plastic production. Currently the rPET flake is not graded as being food safe on its own so it needs to be combined with layers of virgin material. The good news is that it is still a better alternative to standard PET and there has been funding provided to companies like Pact Group who have pledged to make rPET a food grade plastic by 2025. Watch this space!
5. You’ll be contributing towards a circular economy
If COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that our health, and the natural resources we have to keep us healthy, are precious. A circular economy is our best hope to achieve this. In basic terms a circular economy means that your waste is recycled, turned into something and recycled again and again, never having to end up in landfill and avoiding the use of virgin/natural resources. It’s the ultimate goal, albeit a pretty hard one for us to achieve, but it’s not impossible.
What we can do right now
Look for packaging materials that are already recycled. Choosing materials and substrates that are already recycled means that you have contributed to landfill diversion and the use of virgin natural resources (like trees) in manufacturing. That’s an act of circular economy. Another easy first step is to make sure that somewhere on your print or packaging you detail what it is made from and how consumers can recycle it. For more information on this read here
What we can plan for over the next 5 years
A circular economy starts with design. That means it starts with us keeping the environment in mind when we design, produce and distribute products and services. Keep the diagram below in mind for your next campaign or product development and see if you can close the loop. You’ll be a step closer to compliance with the Australian Waste Policy, you’re encouraging manufacturers to produce more green options and you’ll be sending the right brand message during a time when choosing eco-friendly options are favoured by consumers.
Need help with eco-friendly print, packaging, materials and substrates? Get in touch with our team!
Ness Kelly specialises in design strategy and creative content