The Packaging Problem

The dilemma with packaging has grown over the past few years and for many clients, the advice they get can be misleading, costly and impact negatively on the environment.

Let`s get to the nub of it, the place we can all see the problem best, every week or two weeks is when the bin men are due and you collect together your deposits for recycling. It`s at that point most of us look at the massive bin, full to the brim and wonder, how we used so very much in a week?

The truth is, we don`t really create the problem, the problem arises when the packaging is designed and its parts and construction aren`t thought through properly. Let`s take an example, an everyday product that in my opinion, is simply over packaged.

I use this example because I see it every day and its blatant. Tassimo coffee machines are beautifully designed and use special pods, which deliver  fantastic tasting cups of coffee. The packaging for the pods consists of, initially, a large box to transport the packs the pods come in, inside the box are a number of flexible packaging full colour printed outer packs. Inside each of these packs are two folding carton, card boxes, inside each of these are 8 plastic pods, the pods have full colour metallic looking labels which are printed on top telling you which product is in the pod.

So, you buy the product, and the store throws away or recycles (just because it can be recycled doesn’t mean it is) the box it arrived in. Then at home you rip off the outer flexible packaging that holds the boxes and bin it. Here a problem begins, as the outer flexible packaging has a `green dot` recyclable logo on, which is a very confusing logo, as all it signifies is that the packaging producer has made contribution towards packaging recycling. This doesn’t necessarily mean the packaging itself is recyclable. So, unclear what the right thing to do is, some folks put it in the bin and other people stick this and other packaging with this logo, in the recycling, not really knowing if it should go there. Either way it’s a confusing bit of packaging, and a costly one, and in this case, as you will see, it shouldn’t go in normal recycling.

The two printed card boxes inside have the same logo on them, these would normally be recyclable (unless the print prevents this, as it sometimes does because of laminates etc). However, as the logo is not a recycle logo, this causes some ambiguity for the user when it comes to the decision to recycle or bin. Inside the boxes we are left with 8 coffee pods. Once used, are the pods consigned to the recycling or the bin? For the average user how would they know?

To be fair to Tassimo, on their website they explain that their products are recyclable, but the pods and the outer wrap packaging are only recyclable through something called ` TerraCycle` collection points, which I means they aren’t recyclable through normal recycling. Also, these centres (of which there are 130 across the UK) are great if you live near them. Based in Leicester however, the nearest to me are Nottingham, Birmingham or Peterborough, all at least a 30 minute drive away. Hats off to Tassimo for recognising the problem and trying to do something about it, even if it isn’t perfect and if it is an after thought.

My real point is that this is a product which has no competition. Once you buy the Tassimo machine, you have to use their pods, you have no alternative. There is nobody to market against. So why so much expensive packaging? Why so much waste. I know there is an argument that people might see the packs on the shelves and that might influence them to buy a machine if they don’t have one, but I think it’s a weak argument and the packaging could be made to look great with a lot less layers of it, saving Tassimo a fortune and hopefully the customer too? and most importantly, helping the planet.

I`m not coming down on Tassimo, they are just one example of a tremendous trend to over package, which in turn creates an unnecessary mass of waste. They have actually had to set up their own unique recycling operation to cope with the problem their product has caused, how green can that be?

I look at the recycle and rubbish bin each week and think this is simply not sustainable. At Ginger Print Solutions we are committed to try and help our clients not just `appear` to be green but to actually help them achieve it. I know it`s not always possible, but where we can, we will advise solutions that deliver great looks and practical functionality along with genuine green credentials, as we have recently with a new Client. The client wanted to sell high fashion garments via web with delivery through the post. We helped them to reduce down the outer packaging layers to one card box and a postal bag. The bag is printed in compostable ink and comes from a potato starch source, which is recyclable and compostable and is clearly marked to show this. We allowed them to achieve their brief, whilst keeping well within the company`s green policy and the reduction in layers saved them a great deal in packaging cost.

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