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Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2022

The climate crisis is a huge global threat to all that inhabit our planet. In recent years awareness has increased to the point where now the UN is now acting and imposing environmental sanctions on international governments. Away from these new sanctions, businesses in the packaging and manufacturing industries are listening to consumers and are looking to turn to more sustainable alternatives to their existing packaging materials and practices. This is fuelled in part by a growing sense of corporate responsibility, but more so as consumers shopping habits are changing to favour those companies and products that are made with sustainable and ethical packaging. Along with switching to renewable energy to power homes and recycling as often as possible, choosing brands that offer alternatives to non-recyclable packaging is something that consumers are looking for when purchasing products. Brands, businesses, and supermarkets need to continually improve their packaging to make it more sustainable to fit these new habits. To help make your packaging sustainable here are some packaging trends to look for in 2022.

Packaging should be designed to get the most out of the least. The image below is an example of how less is more. It fully utilises the packaging and allows easy transportation and storage of fruit without the need to use a plastic net.

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Creating packaging that is both biodegradable and/or compostable packaging is in many ways the highest aspiration for an ethical focused consumer, and where this isn’t possible the next best thing is a product that can be recycled or reused multiple times and saved from entering landfill.

Awareness is also increasing on the impact of component processes of the packaging and printing process – and an additional way of making a step towards more sustainable packaging is through using different inks on the packaging. An alternative that is rapidly growing in popularity is the use of vegetable and soy-based inks. They are biodegradable, easier to de-ink during recycling and are less pollutant when thrown away. There is also very little difference in the quality of many printing processes compared to that of petroleum-based inks, meaning it’s a simple, more sustainable alternative that is increasingly being offered by printers and is on offer for work placed through Think Tank Creative and the Key Production group.

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Plastics. The dreaded P word. Plastics are now proven to be present as pollution in various forms in all ecosystems on the planet. Depending on the type of plastic, it can take up to 1000 years for it to decompose in landfill. However, there are many initiatives in place to help reduce plastic waste across the planet. Organisations like the WWF have introduced campaigns like their “No Plastic In Nature” initiative which is set out to ensure that by 2030 every indispensable plastic product is used to make another and that no plastic leaks into nature. Companies like Ikea have tested packaging made from mushrooms and replacing Styrofoam packaging with a combination of agricultural waste and mushroom root. In Poland pressed hay is being used for egg cartons as opposed to cardboard. Think Tank’s recent project with the watchmaker IWC used plastics rescued from the ocean to create a limited-edition lanyard alongside its 100% cotton eco-bags. 

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Sometimes, plastics are the only viable material for a particular product – so the aim in those instances should be recyclability or the longest possible useful life as a product. And technology and materials will no doubt continue to develop to reduce plastic use further.

In the meantime, small changes such as the removal of lamination, or using card or paper pulp instead of foam or plastic fitments can easily transform a product into one which is entirely recyclable.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? This may not be a new trend for 2022, but 2022 could be the year that sees all packaging created with recyclable or reused packaging. For packaging to be recyclable it needs to satisfy three simple criteria: be separable, labelled correctly, and not be made from mixed binded materials (i.e. card coated in a plastic lamination) Companies and brands also need to actively encourage customers to recycle these products as some people may not be aware. There also needs to be more initiatives in place that make it easier for people to recycle certain products. More recycling centres could be a good start to help combat recyclable waste going into landfill. The packaging could also be designed for reuse too. For example, is it compostable? If so, it can be used to help grow plants or vegetables and allows them to decompose naturally. 

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Alternative packaging needs to be a win-win situation for both the company that produces it and the consumer. Consumers get products that cause very little harm to the environment, while also getting value for money, and brands will see an increase in revenue and a decrease in their carbon footprints. Sustainable packaging trends will continue to be popular in the fight against wasting products. There is more that can be done, but it is very promising to see more and more brands opting for the sustainable approach without skimping on quality. We always encourage our clients to use sustainable materials for their products and we are constantly researching into new materials that can help them achieve this.

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