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The State-of-Sustainability from Packaging Innovations London 2019 Event

September 13, 2019

 

I spent Wednesday at Packaging Innovations London 2019 conference, checking out the state-of-play in the industry. Here are my top take-aways, in short-hand format, in case you couldn’t attend or want to concur/build/disagree/comment.

 

1/ Sustainability is THE Packaging Industry Trend: I’d say 50% of seminars and presentations were about sustainability, while more than half the stands were blue or green, filled with marketing claims about eco/earth-friendly/sustainable/regenerative/etc. This may not surprise, but was interesting to physically see and experience this.

 

2/ A Business Case for Growth is Emerging: there were heartening stories of business success from sustainable packaging, notably REN skincare that one innovation led to an x8 uplift in sales.

 

3/ The Debate is Simplistic, Material Substitution and Recycling Dominate: most still seem to think that sustainable packaging is just about switching to an ‘eco’ material or ensuring packaging is (theoretically) recyclable. The penny is dropping on recycled content too though.

 

4/ We are Still in the ‘Material Wars’: suppliers are jockeying for position, often using different metrics to claim their (fibre/glass/metal/plastic) materials have a better carbon/recyclability/waste footprint. Lots of vested interests at play here and all very confusing for brands and designers looking to do the right thing.

 

5/ Reuse is On The Rise: discussion and examples turned to reuse and refill models frequently. This may not have happened even last year.

 

6/ Has Lifecycle Assessment come Full Circle?: One impassioned plea was to take account for impacts across the full pack-product system – using Lifecycle Assessment. Behind that is the call for science- and evidence-based decision making (to avoid 3 and 4 above). I’d agree though we’d still need to work out exactly which Lifecycle Assessment method to use for that.

 

7/ Rethinking is Missing from our Sustainable Packaging Jigsaw: I missed real discussion about avoidance and designing-out waste problems from the outset – basically disruptive innovation at the top of the waste hierarchy. Plus I heard little reference to combining product & pack innovation, again where many sustainability opportunities lie. Not too surprising from the Packaging Industry…

 

If all this stuff confuses or excites, get in touch.

Chris Sherwin

 

 

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