Will that be Paper or Plastic?
Canada has plenty of oil to make plastic products, steel to make fixtures, however we have an abundance of forests to make paper-based products as well. Manufacturer’s and brand managers are under more pressure to make good decisions about sustainability, in material use and processes, because powerful retailers such as WalMart are beginning to enforce sustainable, eco-friendly packaging solutions.
The beauty of paper-based packaging materials is that they’re sustainable and recyclable whereas plastics, metal, glass, and other products are not as easy to recycle. There’s more total volume of paper and cardboard materials being recycled than all of glass, metal and plastic combined.
It’s the push to sustainability that’s putting the wind in the sail of paper-based products manufacturers. All that’s needed to really get cardboard packaging positioned as the packaging and display product of choice, is innovation. More utility and strength are needed.
Plastics manufacturers are innovating and in some cases, replacing cardboard-based packaging. For plastics, it’s a matter of how recyclable the materials used are. Just because it has a recyclable symbol, doesn’t mean it will be used again. In order to justify the use of plastics, more cardboard and paper will have to be incorporated to compensate.
Paper-based Cartons Are Sustainable
One such product is wine. Younger consumers seem to be okay with wine in a carton. The spout and cap are still plastic, but the carton is resealable and it rids us of the expense of recycling wine bottles. The cost of shipping and transportation is less too because they are much lighter.
Currently, manufacturers are trying to cut down on the amount of cardboard in shipping cases as their contribution to the sustainability campaign, however that won’t be enough. We need to use more cardboard, not less. But cardboard engineering will have to improve if it is to replace glass and plastic.
According to one report, the cost of bulk recycled cardboard/paper based materials has from $105 to $25 a ton. Cardboard and paper are a much more cost effective choice than they used to be. Certainly for shipping cartons, it’s an obvious choice.
Government Programs for Sustainable Materials
You’re probably aware of WalMart’s sustainable packaging plan yet you might have no idea what the Canadian and Ontario government’s plans are. So who owns the issue of responsible resource management – our government or Walmart?
The Canada-wide Strategy for Sustainable Packaging is supposed to build on their Extended Producer Action Plan, to help provide additional guidance for EPR packaging requirements and support shifts toward more sustainable packaging. Those plans would leave the matter of waste management to the producers themselves.
There’s no word on whether these 2009 initiatives are being followed up on or what progress has been made. We can note the Greenpeace activists are out there reminding fast food producers about what their packaging choices might be doing to the environment on the other side of the world.
Plastics, metal, and glass, all mainstays of the retail scene are all plagued by the issue of recyclability. When retailers need to renovate (increasingly, the pace of retail display change is quickening), they create a huge amount of waste than can typically only end up in landfills. That’s not a renewable/sustainable friendly action.
Cardboard and paper however, especially when printed with vegetable inks are highly recyclable. It’s the type of material now that everyone knows is recyclable and they don’t give a thought about putting used packaging into the recycling box at home or the office.
Innovation in Packaging Design
Manufacturers and retailers may not warm up enough to adopting more cardboard displays and packaging unless packaging producers can develop innovative packaging products. Cardboard and paper are highly versatile materials so it’s going to happen. Even the food industry is using more paper-based products instead of plastic.
Innovation in shelf displays is perhaps one area where we can cut down on metal and steel in landfills. Cardboard displays may need to look a little more chic and flashy to override the preference for permanent steel and plastic displays. Using economy sized product packaging can serve the value conscious shopper’s need well, while reducing the amount of secondary packaging needed.
Do your pop displays improve your product value and promote sales? If not, it’s time to rethink how you can stand out on the shelves at WalMart, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobey’s, Loblaws, Canadian Tire, Sears, or other major retailers. Temporary cardboard displays carry a sense of immediacy and urgency that consumers feel. Just that sense that they’re temporary and new makes shoppers look at them. Now with great creative and a shape that carries your brands’ value proposition well, you can make an impact like never before. Find out more about package design, which are the best displays and how you can create more brand lift and shelf impact.