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Sustainable packaging starts with product design

'The many requirements packaging has to meet make sustainability complex.' - Steven van Dalen, manager Strategy & Transformation.

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The complexity of packaging
'Every year, 173 kilos of packaging is thrown away per person' said Lyanne Paardekooper of the eponymous family business recently in the Volkskrant. She explained that sustainability is one of the spearheads of her strategy, but that it is a complex issue.

That complexity is partly due to the multiplicity of needs a packaging has to meet: transport, the shop shelf, protection against breakage or spoilage and consumer attractiveness all have different requirements.On top of that, it has to be made easy to separate packaging waste. Often this consists of layers of different materials, such as plastic, cardboard and aluminium, which means that even the most environmentally conscious consumer does not know how to handle it and ends up throwing it in the bin.

Making the most profit from the start

One of the key themes in the field of sustainability, also in the context of ESG, is chain cooperation. Even when making packaging more sustainable, the most profit can be made if this is already considered in the design phase of a product, so that the optimal result in terms of emissions and waste is achieved throughout the chain. By involving all chain partners, at least the producer, packaging supplier and distributors, an important step towards sustainability and circularity can be taken.

Optimal use of container space

IKEA is an example of a company that thinks about packaging as small and manageable as possible as early as product design. Since most products are produced in Asia, it is vital to make the best use of container space. A company like Amazon could take this as an example by stopping shipping small items in huge cardboard boxes.

Circularity of packaging

Dutch startup Pakt has set up a car wash where the canning industry can have glass jars cleaned for reuse (TROUW, 1 May). People think they are doing the right thing if they separate their waste and throw the glass in the bottle bank. But they do not consider that this glass has to be melted down in blast furnaces at a temperature of 1,500 degrees.

The construction industry is also giving serious thought to circularity and is introducing a materials passport, detailing exactly what materials are in it and how they can be reused. It would be great if all supply chain partners joined in and such a passport was also developed for packaging.