Do you want to design environmentally friendly plastic packaging? The “Round Table Eco Design” guidelines and toolkit will help you to do so.
The Round Table
The “Round Table Eco Design of Plastic Packaging” (in short: Round Table) is an initiative of experts from companies along the entire value chain of plastic packaging (packaging manufacturers, food and consumer goods industry, retailers and plastic recycling) as well as scientific and consumer protection organisations. The goal of the Round Table is to promote the Eco Design of plastic packaging, principally by preparing guidelines and recommendations for the players in the value chain.
The Round Table was launched by the IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V. (German Industrial Association for Plastic Packaging) in 2014. The experts work together in accordance with established rules based on the principles of consensus and confidentiality. Moderation is carried out by the conflict and process management bureau ‘team ewen’ from Darmstadt.
Experts from the following organisations belong to the Round Table:
Hosts Dr. Jürgen Bruder, IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V. Dr. Isabell Schmidt, IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.
Packaging manufacturers: Johannes Wedi, Bischof + Klein GmbH & Co. KG Michael Schmitz, Jokey group
Brand manufacturers: Dr. Thorsten Leopold, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA Dr. Jochen Hertlein, Nestlé Deutschland AG
Retail industry: Dr. Günther Kabbe, REWE Zentral AG Rainer Würz, tegut … gute Lebensmittel GmbH & Co. KG
Plastic recycling: Dr. Michael Scriba, mtm plastics GmbH Dr. Ina-Maria Becker, Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland GmbH
Scientific organisations: Prof. Dr. Horst Langowski, Fraunhofer-Institut für Verfahrenstechnik und Verpackung IVV Dirk Jepsen, Ökopol Institut für Ökologie und Politik
Consumer Protection: Philip Heldt, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (vzbv)
Eco design of packaging
Why product protection is the be-all and end-all when it comes to the eco-design of packaging.
One of the most important function of packaging is that products reach the consumer undamaged. That is also important for the environment. Because if the goods are damaged, the raw materials and energy required for their production would have been wasted. And they are normally much more than was required for the packaging. For food for example, packaging accounts for 5 to 10 percent of the ecological footprint and over 90 percent relates to manufacturing, transport, storage and the preparation of the food.
Goods that are packaged too lightly have just as strong an impact on the environment as goods that are packaged too heavily. The golden rule is therefore to achieve the highest possible protective effect with as little packaging as possible!
Product protection gains in importance with the increasing sensitivity of the goods and the complexity of their production and transport. While potatoes grown locally can get by with a minimum of packaging, it is worth using heavier packaging for an Argentinian sirloin steak if product damage can then be avoided. That particularly applies to goods that have undergone a very complex manufacturing process such as smartphones and other electrical and electronic devices.
What else is important when it comes to the Eco Design of packaging.
Only when all the legal requirements have been considered, for example for food contact materials, consumer safety has been guaranteed and the basic requirements of the packaging have been clarified, is it possible to begin the actual Eco Design of the packaging. The Eco Design process not only includes the visible characteristics of the packaging itself – it can also involve logistics and waste collection. This frequently has an even greater environmental effect than the design of the packaging itself.
Key aspects of the Eco Design of plastic packaging are:
at the system level
(Deposit-supported) return systems for reusable packaging
(Deposit-supported) return systems for single use packaging
Improved sorting and recycling systems
Resource-efficient logistics (e.g. avoidance of transport and cooling)
Waste prevention along the supply chain (goods and packaging)
at the packaging level
Product protection (e.g. shelf life)
Needs-based packaging size
Optimising packaging weight and volume
Use of recycled material
Use of bio-based plastics
Capability of being ascertained, sorted and recycled
Anti-littering (mindful product design)
Guiding principles of the Eco Design of packaging
Integrated view - As the packaging has an effect on the shelf life and logistics of the packaged product, it is not just the packaging alone that is the focus of Eco Design but the packaged product and its packaging as a whole. The secondary and transport packaging must also be taken into account here.
Life cycle view - The Eco Design of packaging aims to minimise the environmental impact of the product and its packaging over the entire life cycle. This includes the production of product and packaging, the distribution and consumption of the packaged product and finally the collection and recycling of the used packaging.
Trade-offs virtually preprogrammed – When considering the many different aspects that determine the Eco Design of packaging, there is normally no packaging solution that is perfect in every respect. For example, a choice may have to be made between a particularly material-saving packaging solution and a particularly recycling-friendly alternative. Trade-offs between various environmentally relevant properties and the search for compromises are therefore to be expected. You often need to make an objective ecological assessment to decide which alternative is more beneficial over the entire life cycle. There may be trade-offs at other levels of course, due to economic goals or consumer-relevant functions. If trade-offs cannot be clearly resolved, the Eco Design process can help to make conflicts and decisions transparent.
From gradual improvements to great success – Eco design ranges from gradual product improvements such as saving packaging material to systemic, procedural innovations. The latter could relate to optimised logistics or waste collection for example. Packaging Eco Design is therefore part of a holistic decision-making process concerning the development and marketing of a packaged product.
Guidelines and Toolbox for the Eco Design of Plastics Packaging
The members of the Round Table Eco Design of Plastics Packaging have decided to develop and promote an appropriate support package for decision makers and practitioners in the packaging, food, consumer goods and retail industry.
The project goal is the development of guidelines for the Eco Design of consumer plastics packaging, comprising the following key elements:
Concise “core” guidelines for decision makers
Toolbox with internal and external links to practical guidance such as checklists, design-for-recycling tools, knowledge databases and best practice examples
Special focus will lie on:
Agenda setting for the early product development phase (ideation phase)
Comprehensive, hands-on toolbox for packaging development
Guidance on dealing with conflicting objectives
Main target groups:
Top management in the packaging, food, consumer goods and retail industry
Product managers, marketing directors and other decision makers in the product ideation phase