As Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) gains a foothold in the US packaging marketplace, converters are being asked to provide solutions to their CPG brand-owner customers (and their distributor/retailer customers). In the second of two sustainability-related presentations* at last week’s Converting Influence spring meeting, Susan Stansbury, the regional trade group’s director, offered several tips to address the issues of ecological footprint, life cycle materials analysis and the packaging supply chain. Among her suggestions for not letting a good sustainable-packaging plan go bad:
1. First, design a good package. Nothing will succeed if the product integrity is compromised, so consider:
- Is the product/package aesthetically pleasing?
- Is it ergonomically appropriate?
- How well does the package protect its contents?
- What’s the product shelf life?
- What are the consumer’s expectations?
- What are the product convenience factors?
- Is there a technique to using the product?
- Is the package easy to store?
- If sold at retail, how does it maximize shelf appeal or add P-O-P impact?
- Does the product work well after repeated use?
2. See sustainable packaging through the consumer’s eyes.
- No. 1 way an American consumer decides if a product is “green” is by its packaging.
- The packaging itself—what it’s made of—can be the sole reason the consumer
decides to buy the product.
- What are the right messages to engage the consumer at the retail shelf.
- What material innovations would a consumer buy into and really believe.
- Consumers want to know how to prioritize environmental decisions in their lives,
the relative impact of choosing sustainable products, if they can truly determine “green” products by reading the label, and how to separate “hype” from “fact.”
3. Be certain of a product or package’s attributes from the converter’s perspective. Study materials for the following:
- Strength, such as tear, tensile, burst.
- Stretch, such as for overwraps.
- Coefficient of friction (CoF) for staying in place on the retail shelf.
- Softness to the hand, such as for non-woven personal- or household-care products.
- Quietness, such as with polylactic acid (PLA) flexible snack-food packaging.
- Shelf-life history could be questionable with new PLA materials.
- Unintended interactions with other layers and ingredients with which packages
come in contact. Will one layer degrade another?
- Practicality, efficacy of products on the environment.
- Processing factors, such as physical attributes changing during production;
effect of speed, heat on materials.
- Chain of value-added converting, such as printing, coating, laminating, slitting/rewinding, folding, perforating, diecutting.