Sustainable Product Packaging: 6 Packaging Designs To Inspire

The packaging manufacturing sector is an £11 billion industry and a significant contributor to the UK economy.

It is also an industry that is continually evolving, thanks, in part, to technological changes. Public pressure is playing a role too, however; a recent WWF report showed a third of British people are concerned about the levels of packaging used in the products they buy.

Thinking of the response to programmes like Blue Planet II and environmental activists like Greta Thunberg, it’s probably not surprising. It does, however, mean that it’s no longer enough for companies to say they care about the planet. They need to prove their commitment to the environment. Moreover, sustainable product packaging is one of the easiest and most noticeable ways of doing this.

What is sustainable product packaging?

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, sustainable product packaging is packaging that has a limited environmental impact and reduces that impact over time. Examples of this include:

  • Packaging that uses 100% recycled materials or can be recycled.
  • Production processes that make the best use of resources or source materials locally to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Packaging that is part of a circular economy, extending its lifecycle and usability.
  • Limiting the amount of packaging used, e.g. by reducing void filler (or doing away with it entirely).
  • Swapping single-use plastics for reusable or recyclable products such as cardboard, paper, bio-plastics or other bio-based materials.

It is worth noting, however, that – while all of this packaging may be sustainable – it isn’t always.  Plant-based packaging, for example, has been known to come from halfway across the world, including the rainforests. It’s important, therefore, that companies drill down to where materials come from and how they are manufactured when developing sustainable product packaging – just because the packaging says it’s eco-friendly doesn’t mean it’s sustainable. 

Innovations in sustainable product packaging

One of the best things about the push for sustainable product packaging is the innovation we are seeing in packaging design. Across the industry, companies are coming up with new and exciting ways to package products that reduce their environmental impact.  So, because we know changing packaging can be daunting, we’ve put together six of our favourite new sustainable packaging designs to inspire you.

Fat Face bags as wrapping paper

Fat Face bags as wrapping paper, sustainable product packaging

High Street and online retailer Fat Face have been focusing on sustainability across the board in recent years. This includes not just the materials they use to make their clothes but the packaging those clothes come in. It has reduced its carbon footprint by 8% since 2018. In part, this was down to making the move to recycled plastic bags for its products and recycled paper bags for its online deliveries. 

This Christmas, by using recycled paper bags in its stores that doubled as wrapping paper, it helped its customers reduce their carbon footprint too. Customers could recycle the wrapping paper too, which isn’t always possible with other brands.  Not only is this a great idea, it means customers have increased awareness of how Fat Face are doing their bit, which should – in turn – increase brand loyalty.

It’s probably worth mentioning that Fat Face isn’t the only brand looking to make their shopping bags more useful.  H&M, for example, have bags that turn into coat hangers, as do the HangBag Project and Transforma. Meanwhile, companies like Triumph Plants produce biodegradable wrapping paper embedded with seeds to reduce waste and have a positive environmental impact.

Rejuvenated compostable packaging

Rejuvenated compostable packaging

It’s not just Triumph Plants that are looking at producing products that are less likely to end up in landfill.  Packaging that is biodegradable or compostable is growing in popularity. Rejuvenated is a UK-based company that sells nutritional supplements. They have recently announced they are moving to compostable packaging, starting with a skincare supplement drink before rolling it out to other products. They will package the supplement in a bio-pouch which customers can compost at home.  

In addition, Rejuvenate now offer customers the option to purchase a metal scoop for their products rather than a plastic one (which they’ll be phasing out by the end of the year).  

Compostable packaging seems to be ideal for food-based products; other companies that have made the switch in the last few years include Tea Pigs (who also have no plastic in their tea bags) and Snact snack bars. However, it’s worth noting that while all compostable products are biodegradable, not all biodegradable products are compostable. Companies that are looking to make the shift to either need to make sure their customers understand how to dispose of the packaging properly.

The 60 Bag

The 60 Bag

Biodegradable products seem to have a wider reach than compostable products and can be found in all types of sustainable product packaging, including the 60 Bag. The 60 Bag is a good example of sustainability through the use of materials that have a low carbon footprint and result in minimal environmental impact. The bag is made from flax fibre. The fibre comes from industrial waste and producing the bag takes very little energy as a result. 

The bag looks good and has the strength needed for multiple uses. And, when it’s no longer fit for purpose (which can take a while), customers can be confident it won’t end up rotting in landfill for a hundred years. This is because the bags naturally biodegrade in 60 days. 

Garçon Wines flat wine bottle

Garçon Wines flat wine bottle

Most people would probably say ’round’ when describing a wine bottle and a few may say wine doesn’t come in bottles but in boxes. Garçon Wines, however, want to change that with their new, sustainable, wine bottle design. 

Their wine bottles, which are made from recycled materials (and are 100% recyclable), are flat. And, while this might seem a strange choice, the result is not only pleasing to the eye but cost-effective too.  First, they are 87% lighter than a traditional wine bottle. Plus, they are 40% spatially smaller. This means they need less packaging materials, require less storage space and have a lower carbon footprint. And, because of their design, Garçon Wines estimate each bottle saves the supply chain at least 500g of CO2. 

Gumipod chewing gum boxes

Gumipod chewing gum boxes

Gumipod is another company looking to change how we see traditional packaging by focusing on such a small part of our lives – chewing gum. Much of the focus of sustainable product packaging in recent years has been on larger packages full of void filler or wrapped in too much single-use plastic. Sometimes, however, smaller products can be packed in very non-sustainable ways. 

Chewing gum is a perfect example of this.  Little of the packaging that chewing gum comes in is reusable or recyclable.  Gumipod wants to change this. Their innovative new product is designed to move consumers away from wasteful gum wrappers and help keep the streets free from dropped chewing gum.  The boxes are made from food-grade recyclable plastic and designed to hold 12 pieces of gum on one side and 24 pieces of ‘used’ gum on the other. Hopefully, gum manufacturers will jump on this sustainable product packaging bandwagon.

Accordion Packaging

Accordion Packaging

Not all sustainable product packaging, however, is new – some is just being rediscovered. Accordion packaging, for example, has been around for a few years but seems to be growing in popularity along with the trend for sustainable product packaging.  We’ve come across examples of it being used in clothing, chocolate, and beauty, and it seems to make perfect sense for those wanting to reduce the use of void fillers. 

The benefit of accordion packaging is that it really is a case of ‘one size fits all’ because containers can be made bigger or smaller depending on what is inside.  This is down to the fan-like folds that are used to create the packaging and can stretch as needed. Remember, though, as we mentioned before, the packaging is only as sustainable as the materials it is made from.  

While this design has the potential to be very eco-friendly and definitely ticks the box when it comes to reducing void filler, it still needs to be made from reusable or recyclable materials to be truly sustainable. 

Sustainable Packaging For Business Growth?

The packaging sector is constantly changing and evolving to meet consumer demand.  This has never been more the case than with sustainable product packaging. There are so many options out there for companies to change how they package and ship their goods that there is no excuse not to make the change. And, while the initial outlay may have a financial impact, in the long-term sustainable packaging is providing to not only be environmentally friendly but cost-effective for many businesses. Plus, it means something to their customers, which builds brand loyalty and will hopefully lead to continued business growth. 

Top Ten Most Innovative Cardboard Packaging Designs

Cardboard box design is something we take for granted. It appears every day in our lives, and we don’t think twice about what has gone into the design of the innovative cardboard packaging we use, whether it’s a milk carton, a book delivery through the door, or a box that we use to move to a new house. It’s simply always there. Imagine, however, if we woke up one day and cardboard packaging was banned!

There have been several innovations in cardboard packaging, since 1821, the year that cardboard was developed as a packaging product. The first cardboard packaging as we know it today arrived in 1890 and was designed by Robert Gair a Scotsman whose discovery was made by accident.

But have you stopped to think how over the decades these early innovations and developments have led to the versatile use of innovative cardboard packaging design as we know it today?

  1. Cardboard Tubing

Who said cardboard boxes had to be square? Over time the human tendency to “think outside of the box” and innovate according to both functional need and creative growth has been fed by the versatility of the cardboard box. When cardboard tubing first became an everyday product, many problems were resolved. The lowly toilet roll, something we all use every day could now be packaged and rolled without any further packaging issues, Architectural drawings, posters and prints are kept safe both for long-term storage and transportation. Cardboard tubes are frequently used to package high-end wine and spirit products, to name but a few.

  1. The Classic Flatpack

product packaging box

Most modern boxes with six sides are now designed to be flat packed. This is exceptionally handy for mass production so that once the box has been used, it can be flattened again and then stored for reuse at a later stage. Good examples of flatpack boxes that we see and use every day are boxes made for house moves, packaging for posting, and other bulk product packaging boxes.

  1. Milk And Juice Cartons

Intelligent and innovative cardboard packaging design for the function hasn’t only been about how boxes flatten down and can be rebuilt. Using cardboard for food packaging continues to surprise anew. Milk cartons are coated with a waterproof coating, and the type of waterproof layer will vary depending on the laws of the country in which it is manufactured, but had it not been for cardboard, the milk and juice cartons that are so familiar today would not exist.

  1. The Pizza Box

The humble pizza box, shallow, wide and long, depending on the size of the pizza has become a favourite, and its design and use has expanded to other food ideas such as the munchie box specials offered by takeaways, but also enabled designers to work around awkward products such as clocks. The pizza box is definitely an innovation with the feeling of hunger and optimism that it provides the minute you see one.

  1. The Wine Carrier

Ever been shopping for a party and discovered the round shape of the bottle make them difficult to carry, even in a plastic carrier bag? The bottle carrier has rescued many a bottle from an untimely demise. These cardboard carriers can usually transport anything from four to six bottles with a convenient carry handle and are remarkably robust and secure. Usually, these can be flat packed for storage and reuse.

  1. The Fold Open Cardboard Package

If you have ordered a book from one of the large online suppliers, you’ll be familiar with this packaging, and it’s relatively new on the scene. All you need to do is pull a tab or use a little – not a lot of force to pull it open, and it stretches out to a flat piece of cardboard with your product lying slightly off centre, having been delivered safely and securely.

  1. The Archive Box

Storage boxes, come by many names and should not be confused with the flatpack, product packaging or moving box. These come with handles cut out of the side of the box and a lid, which enables continued use of the box and access to the box long before it needs to be discarded. These boxes can be utilised for decades before they require replacement. Sometimes referred to as file boxes, they are an investment that many businesses make and are often used as evidence storage by law enforcement across the world.

  1. Egg Boxes

cardboard egg box design

Eggs are probably the one item in the supermarket trolley that are the easiest to break and yet the design of the egg box is one that is light, practical and offers safety and security to the contents like few other packaging ideas. Cardboard is the best material because not only is it functional in design, but it also can absorb a substantial amount of movement and compression before the contents become damaged.

  1. The Tissue Box

The tissue box made it into this list because it has to be open to serve its purpose. This little space saver comes in all shapes and sizes, can be kept anywhere, be it the home, the car, the office and even mini boxes in the handbag. The beauty of it is that no matter how few tissues are in it, it continues to serve its purpose until the last one is gone. Without the tissue box, we’d have tissues and napkins everywhere, making a huge mess of the surroundings.

  1. The Pet Carrier

Thinks pets, you may think cats and dogs, but the widespread and bespoke use of cardboard carriers for animals can be seen at veterinary clinics, airports, rescue centres and elsewhere. They are to carry many animals from reptiles, to kittens, hamsters to hedgehogs. The cardboard packaging is robust, yet safe to the touch this design is perfect for scared or aggressive animals, and they come in larger sizes too that can accommodate sedated dogs too.


Innovative cardboard packaging solutions from Ribble Packaging

Whether you are at home or out in town, have a look around you, and you’ll see a diversity of packaging that we use every day and simply take for granted. Just imagine if we woke up one day and none of it was there!

If you need an innovative cardboard packaging solution, then talk to the experts at Ribble Pack who may be able to meet your design and product needs for your packaging to become the next most innovation cardboard solution. Whatever your packaging needs, the Ribble experts are here to help.

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