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5 Sustainable Packaging Trends Manufacturers Should Explore

5 Sustainable Packaging Trends Manufacturers Should Explore

It’s in manufacturers’ best interests to improve their packaging and deliver an experience that reduces waste and aligns with their customers’ values.

First, tear open the cardboard box.

Then take out all the bubble wrap.

Don’t forget to peel off the extra layer of plastic.

Finally, remove all the price tags and any other materials left over.

This is the sort of process consumers have had to go through to open many of their products over the years. And manufacturers have put them through it with the best of intentions.

Part of a great customer experience is ensuring people get the items they want in good condition. Effective packaging does that.

There are also some products that might not get damaged in transit, but could harm small children or animals if left exposed in the open. Packaging can provide an extra layer of safety in those kinds of situations.

Packaging is also, of course, a great opportunity for branding. Just seeing a logo on a box can get customers excited about what they’ve bought, and associating that excitement with the manufacturer that produced it.

On the flip side, throwing out packaging means adding more to overloaded landfills. Producing and consuming packaging also means emitting more greenhouse gas emissions, even as manufacturers are trying to reduce their carbon footprint to achieve net zero.

Customer attitudes and expectations around packaging have changed a lot as we’ve all learned about the challenges facing the environment. According to data from Explorer Research, packaging design is the top area of influence for shoppers who are concerned with sustainability.

A study from New Hope’s NEXT Data and Insights team also shows that consumers are increasingly aware of the sustainable packaging alternatives that are available to brands. It’s in manufacturers’ best interests, therefore, to learn more about how to improve their packaging to deliver an experience that aligns with their customers’ values.

1. The Scope Of EPR Regulations Grows

Manufacturers in Canada and beyond have long been governed by extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations which outline sustainability requirements around areas like packaging.

In Ontario, for instance, manufacturers and packaging producers were required to pay half the costs of collecting and recycling of printed paper products. That will change based on an announcement from the provincial government last year. Not only will collection expand to single use packaging such as cups and straws, but manufacturers will be expected to pay the full cost of recycling by 2025.

It’s possible other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead, or introduce their own variations on EPR regulations manufacturers will have to follow. All the more reason to get ahead of compliance requirements by reducing harmful packaging today.

2. The Momentum Around Circular Materials Accelerates

Consumers don’t have the scientific expertise or capabilities to know what’s continued in the packaging they unwrap and throw out. If they did, they might be shocked to discover the levels of toxins, from fragrances and solvents to flame retardants and other biohazards.

The food packaging in particular shows how this could be addressed by phasing out the use of what are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Less chemicals means less waste and a more compelling story to tell customers who are looking to manufacturers for leadership.

Fortunately, this isn’t an area producers have to figure out everything on their own. Circular Materials, a Canadian national not-for-profit, is a great example of how industry leaders are coming together to promote better recycling of packaging.

3. Join Efforts To Develop Sustainable Packaging Strategies Thrives

The government isn’t simply putting new rules in place to tackle packaging waste in Canada. It is also working directly with manufacturers to create innovative solutions to the problem.

Just look at a recent investment by the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA). The money will fund a pilot project to enhance the ability to create packaging that can be recycled or composted rather than tossed in the garbage.

The Ministry of Economy and Innovation has made similar moves by fuelling packaging sustainability efforts from the Circular Plastics Taskforce.

4. The Push To Plastic-Free Becomes A Top Priority

Using less ink and produced from sustainably managed forest sources, fashion house Gucci grabbed international headlines when it introduced “green packaging” that managed to retain its signature branding.

Much like other business challenges, some of the most successful companies are demonstrating they can make significant changes to packaging by exploring a range of environmentally-friendly materials.

Watch for other manufacturers who show what they can do using organic cotton, paper made of stone or even bamboo. Biodegradable seals may quickly become the norm.

5. Data Unlocks The Key To Improved Traceability And Tracking

Sustainable packaging isn’t just something that will concern those working on the plant floor or answering tough questions in the customer service department. It will become an IT imperative.

According to market research firm Garter, 40% of tech teams will own responsibility for net zero carbon targets and data modeling for sustainability within just three years.

IDC, meanwhile, says the same percentage of manufacturers will use technology to ensure the impact of packaging can be traced in order to boost transparency and mitigate environmental risks.

Taking a more data-driven approach to manufacturing can start even earlier by using platforms such as Net Zero Cloud to get an up-to-date and complete picture of your carbon footprint as it stands today. Combining this information with traceability data related to packaging will make it easier to measure progress towards true sustainability.

It won’t be long before more manufacturers see for themselves that changing the quantity and substance of materials used in packaging doesn’t hurt their brand. It just means they’re providing their customers with more than what’s contained in the package: a brighter outlook for the planet’s long-term future.

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