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Increasingly, consumers are thinking about the impact the packaging of the products they buy has on the environment.
Driven by an awareness of the damage non-recyclable materials like plastic can have, designing sustainable packaging is something manufacturers need to invest in.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) enables manufacturers to manage the entire journey of a product. This includes everything from the initial idea and development, right through to service and disposal.
PLM software brings together all the processes and information into a single solution. Today’s complex supply chains are global and incredibly fast-paced, but PLM software enables organizations to be adaptable and responsive, unifying your product value chain with integrated business planning and supply chain execution.
If your organization manufactures Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), or you create products that require CPG, you should care about the sustainability of your packaging.
Why? The simple answer is that you should care because your customers care.
The impact of waste plastic on the planet’s oceans, for example, started to receive a huge amount of attention a few years ago, leading to the UK government banning plastic straws. Meanwhile, various supermarkets started to make a concerted effort to reduce single-use plastic
Consumers are now making purchasing decisions based on the carbon footprint and ecological harm a company causes, so if you’re not taking sustainable packaging seriously, it’s going to impact your corporate image and, ultimately, your sales.
There’s no easy answer to the question of how to design sustainable packaging, but the following principles will help make sure you’re designing with intent, which is key when it comes to creating efficient material use.
First things first — use material(s) that can be recycled easily. This includes aluminum, glass, paper, and cardboard. Where possible, try to design the packaging from a single material, too.
We’ve all had products delivered to our home, or that we’ve bought in store, that come with more packaging than required. Focusing on keeping the product-to-package ratio down will have a significant impact on the amount of packaging you use. This includes reducing secondary and tertiary packaging use whenever possible.
When possible, avoid gluing or laminating packaging, as this makes it much harder to recycle.
Clearly label each element of the packaging, so the consumer understands what they can recycle and what they can’t.
One of the major benefits of designing sustainable packaging with PLM is that you can bring automation into the process.
A PLM system allows departments to make their data available to others, while facilitating instant collaboration for identifying and resolving conflicts quickly. This shortens the entire production time.
We’ve already talked about how whether a manufacturer uses sustainable packaging impacts their bottom line, but there is still a cost associated with it.
Unfortunately, sustainable packaging is usually more expensive than non-recyclable alternatives. The question is, can your organization bear the costs, can the costs be passed onto the consumer (even in part), or is it unviable?
A study by management consultancy Inverto found that the majority of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, although the same study found that half of all company experts don’t believe that’s actually the case. Consumers might be willing to pay a higher price in theory, but when faced with the choice between two identical products, many experts think they’ll choose the cheaper option. This puts pressure on manufacturers to try to find efficiencies in other areas of the product’s lifecycle.
Higher costs aren’t the only challenge of producing sustainable packaging. Even the concept of what is classified as ‘sustainable’ can be unclear.
For example, reusable bottles reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles a consumer needs to purchase, but they result in far greater CO2 emissions during transportation as a result of their comparative weight. Cardboard is easy to recycle if untreated, but waterproof coatings (often required for transporting the product safely) render the cardboard non-recyclable.
There are also complications for companies selling products internationally. Different countries have different legal requirements on packaging, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for international manufacturers.
PLM services and solutions are designed to optimize your product’s lifecycle, and this includes making smarter decisions around packaging.
Our PLM offering provides the ability to design, visualize and simulate every stage in the lifecycle of the production process, reducing costs and driving opportunities for innovation and sustainability.
Are you ready to take the next step towards becoming
a more sustainability-minded organization?
Talk to one of our experts today to find out how
you can start making product creation sustainable.