Why Should You Design Out Plastic Waste?

Latest News Calendar Date 26/04/2023
Why Should You Design Out Plastic Waste?

5 reasons why it's time to design sustainably and send plastic packing.

Packaging comes in various forms and materials, habitually plastics, playing a crucial role in our daily lives. It protects the products we buy, preserves freshness, and even helps transport them from point A to point B. While plastic is incredibly versatile, long-lasting, and cheap to manufacture, these same qualities create the colossal dilemma we are already facing – global plastic pollution. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious and further aware of the harsh realities of plastic pollution, sustainable packaging design has become increasingly important. Consumers are now looking for products with packaging that minimizes environmental impact and brands that align with their sustainability efforts.

In the article below, we'll explore the following topics:

- Why is Sustainability in Packaging Design Important?
- The Problem with Plastic Packaging
- Packaging Greenwashing
- Sustainable Alternatives
- Plastic-Free Packaging - Solid Format Personal Care Products
- Designing Out Waste - Innovative Approaches to Plastic-Free Packaging

Looking deeper at why removing plastics is the future of packaging design and why brands should be taking note of consumer demands and market shifts.

Why is Sustainability in Packaging Design Important?

Answering this question might leave us feeling uncertain or absorbed, as first, we must understand why sustainability is essential. Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem, and preserves natural resources for future generations. But back to why we’re here. Packaging design can help to construct environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable packaging. This approach considers the entire packaging lifecycle, from sourcing and manufacturing to disposal and recycling. Remember, the consumer is always right. Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and are demanding sustainable products. According to Mintel "54% of UK beauty and personal care consumers often research products online before they buy them" checking on their sustainable and ethical claims. By incorporating sustainable packaging into your product design, you can appeal to this growing market and differentiate your brand from competitors.


The Problem with Plastic Packaging

All plastics have a significant negative impact on the environment; plastic packaging is undoubtedly no different. It can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose.

Much of the time, it will join the assortment of plastics found in overflowing landfills or infiltrate oceans, posing risks to wildlife and polluting the many ecosystems found on our planet. Recycling plastic packaging is arduous, involving a two-stage sorting followed by a shredding or melting process. Even once the plastic is recycled, it usually becomes downcycled into a lower-value product, containing more toxicity in each transaction. Plastic waste reduction efforts have had limited effectiveness holistically, pointing to the need to remove plastic packaging from our supply chains and economy.


Packaging Greenwashing

Recently, the term greenwashing has become cemented in our vocabulary, often being used as a stick to beat the claims of almost every big brand. But what is greenwashing? It refers to conveying a false or misleading impression of a company's or product's environmental or sustainability efforts. A recent report by the Guardian highlights that some well-known brands, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever, have been accused of misleading consumers with their packaging sustainability claims. The report suggests that these brands are engaging in greenwashing - a marketing tactic used to create a false perception of environmental responsibility, while not necessarily addressing underlying sustainability issues.

The term "greenwashing" was first coined in the 1980s by environmental activist Jay Westerveld, who used it to describe the practice of hotels encouraging guests to reuse towels to save the environment while engaging in other environmentally harmful practices. 

Greenwashing in packaging is problematic for several reasons. "I got 99 problems, and packaging is one" (Sorry Jay-Z). It can mislead consumers, swaying their purchasing habits based on false or incomplete information. A conscious consumer, caring about sustainability could unknowingly support brands that do not prioritize environmental actions. Greenwashing undermines the efforts of genuinely sustainable packaging initiatives. Confusion among consumers contributes to the growing plastic pollution problem, as packaging could be disposed of incorrectly due to misleading claims and instructions.

Sustainable Alternatives

Sustainable innovation is rife in industries across the globe, with product designers, research & developers, and sustainability managers trying to ideate solutions to long-standing plastic problems. There are many promising sustainable packaging alternatives; for example, aluminium, paper substrates, cardboard, and glass are all widely available, infinitely recyclable, and reusable materials. Compostable and biodegradable materials are also becoming increasingly common in packaging, promoting a circular economy, and reducing carbon emissions. Furthermore, compostable materials provide and give back nutrients to the environment as they break down over time. Who doesn't love to give back a little, right?


Plastic Free Packaging - Solid Format Personal Care Products

A prime example of sustainable packaging innovation is the rise of solid format personal care products. Solid format product packaging is an excellent example of uses for non-plastic packaging that is both functional and sustainable. Traditional liquid soap scatters across shelves in an assembly of plastic bottles. Solid format bars, on the other hand, can be packaged in various plastic-free options. Soap bars have been a popular hygiene product for centuries, and they are making a comeback in today's eco-conscious market.

Here are some reasons why solid format soap is an option for the future:

  1. Reduced Environmental Impact - Solid format bars use less packaging than liquid soap, which reduces their environmental impact. Often wrapped in paper or cardboard, which can be recycled or composted. Many solid format bars are biodegradable, like our Syndopal range, meaning any excess product going down the drain will decompose shortly after, leaving no trace.

  2. Longer Lifespan - Solid format soaps and syndets are often concentrated, meaning they often last longer than their liquid counterparts, which means less packaging waste is generated over time. This is because the water content in liquid soaps can evaporate over time, leading to a shorter lifespan. Solid format bars, on the other hand, can be used until they deplete entirely.

  3. Versatility - Solid format bars can be used for various purposes, from handwashing and body cleansing to shampooing and shaving. This versatility makes them a stand-out option for minimalists who want to reduce the number of products they use and the packaging waste they generate.

  4. Sustainable Ingredients - Besides eco-friendly packaging, many solid format personal care brands are committed to using sustainable and natural ingredients. Meaning that not only is the packaging more sustainable, but the product itself has a lower value environmental impact.


Designing Out Waste - Innovative Approaches to Plastic-Free Packaging

  • The Dissolving Bottle - The Dissolving Bottle is an innovative packaging design concept that aims to tackle plastic pollution by creating a bottle that dissolves in water, offering a biodegradable alternative to traditional plastic bottles. The bottle was developed in the Philippines, where travelers to the islands often bring a plethora of liquid products packaged in plastics, often ending up in their pristine waters and beaches. The concept won a D&AD Professional Award in 2022 and is praised for its potential to reduce plastic waste and its innovative approach to sustainable packaging design.

  • Corona - Corona, a popular beer brand, has been trialing plastic-free and biodegradable six-pack rings as an innovative solution to reduce plastic waste. The brand's efforts to tackle plastic pollution by using a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic six-pack rings, which are known to pose risks to marine life. The innovation lies in using biodegradable materials that break down naturally, reducing the environmental impact and addressing the issue of plastic pollution in the beverage packaging industry.

  • Seventh Generation Beam - The Seventh Generation Beam Plastic-Free Oral Care Kit offers a sustainable oral care solution. The kit includes a toothpaste tablet and a bamboo toothbrush, eliminating the need for plastic toothpaste tubes and traditional plastic toothbrushes. The tablets are packaged in a non-plastic, unique cardboard and recycled paper solution.

  • Somma - This plastic-free shampoo bar is made using natural ingredients and is packaged using a biodegradable material made from SCOBY, which is a byproduct of fermented tea. Roza Rutkowska from MakeGrowLab and packaging designer Ula Krasny teamed up to show how gorgeously packaged these shampoo alternatives can be with 100% waste-free packaging. Although the product isn't yet commercially available, it certainly doesn't look out of place on shelves.

  • The Item Bag 2.0 - "Item Bags" by Waste Based, are a new form of non-plastic product bags created with upcycled textile waste. The bags are designed to be reusable, durable, and sustainable, offering an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bags. The innovation lies in using upcycled textile waste as raw material, reducing waste, and promoting circular economy principles in packaging design.


Sustainability in packaging design is becoming increasingly important in today's eco-conscious market. By adopting sustainable packaging practices, businesses can reduce their environmental impact, appeal to consumers who value sustainability and differentiate themselves from competitors. Solid format packaging is an excellent example of a sustainable packaging option that is functional, versatile, and eco-friendly. As more and more industries move away from traditional plastic packaging, we can all work towards a more sustainable and healthy future for our planet. As consumers, we should continue to do our part by choosing sustainably packaged products and promoting a culture of sustainability in our communities and lifestyles.

If you want to know more about the topics above or want to discuss any upcoming solid format packaging or design projects, please reach out.

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Sustainability Trends Packaging Case Studies
Joe Adams Creative Designer