From a refillable toothpaste dispenser to sustainable packaging for luxury French wine, here are this year’s top innovations tackling the world’s packaging problems
Packaging, particularly the plastic kind, is one of the most obvious symbols of waste that we encounter in our daily lives. Each year, we produce 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging, and around a third of this ends up polluting the environment. Moreover, 40 per cent of all the plastic produced on earth is packaging that is used only once. As a result, it is estimated that 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic pollution can be found in our seas.
One solution to this problem is to find alternative, less harmful packaging materials that perform a similar role to plastic. Here innovators are making progress. Notpla, a producer of seaweed-based packaging won an Earthshot Prize earlier this month, and our top five packaging innovations from last year, which featured Notpla, also included packaging made from agricultural waste.
But while this exciting work gathers pace, plastic continues to be used on a large scale because of its hard-to-replicate properties. As a result, this year, we have seen a trend towards innovations that reduce the impact of packaging in other ways.
Ultimately, replacing all plastic packaging with alternative materials will be essential. But, in the meantime, some of the most interesting innovators of 2022 are helping us to use packaging in new, greener, ways.
In the view of UK online grocer Dizzie, the simplest way to reduce single-use plastic packaging is to not buy anything in it. The company has created a closed-loop delivery system that does away with the reams of harmful waste generated by most grocery shops. Pantry essentials and cleaning and personal care products are delivered in fossil fuel-free reusable pots. Shoppers can decant products into their own containers or use things directly from the Dizzie pot. Dizzie then picks up the empties when the next order is delivered. Read more
It’s not just home groceries that come in plastic. In the UK alone, it’s estimated that consumers generate 11 billion items of food packaging waste per year – just from takeaway lunches. Swiss startup reCircle wants to eliminate this waste mountain by changing people’s habits. The company has developed a circular system that allows customers to purchase their takeaway food in reusable containers. ReCircle sells the containers to partner restaurants, who pay a fee for membership. The restaurants, in turn, sell the containers to customers with their food. Customers can then trade the empty boxes for filled ones on their next visit or return them and get their money back. Read more
At the other end of the price range for food and drink, packaging is still a problem. As everyone knows, wine traditionally comes in glass rather than plastic bottles. But counterintuitively, this isn’t necessarily all good news for the environment. Wine bottles are heavy and bulky to transport, which has a negative impact on shipping emissions. Multinational luxury conglomerate LVHM has recently acquired Provincal Cru Classé estate Château Galoupet. Among the most eye-catching changes the company is making at the vineyard is the use of flat 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles for the winemaker’s Galoupet Nomade wine. At just 63 grammes, the new bottles are up to 10 times lighter than glass. The estate’s Cru Classé wine will continue to be packaged in glass, but in a lighter bottle that is 70 per cent recycled. Read more
There is almost no aspect of our lives that can’t be made at least a bit more sustainable – and a good place to start is in the bathroom. Once you have purchased recycled toilet paper and a bamboo toothbrush, the next step may be toothpaste. Around 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfill each year. But now, dental brand Happier Beauty has developed what it claims is the first refillable toothpaste dispenser. The dispenser is made from aluminium and 50 per cent recycled plastic. It works like a traditional toothpaste pump, and is refilled via capsules, which can be delivered on subscription. Each capsule is biodegradable and can be added to the household green waste bin or compost heap. Read more
Paper drinks cartons are used for many of our most-beloved beverages – from milk to orange juice. In fact, on average, around 900,000 tonnes of beverage cartons are put on the market in Europe each year, with the majority being used for dairy products. The paper exterior of these cartons provides consumers with a comforting sense of sustainability, and it is true that they can be recycled at scale. However, in standard drinks cartons, the paper is interspersed with layers of plastic. These layers must be separated using a special process that is expensive and not readily available in every region. To combat this, designer Pushan Panda has developed a packaging design – called Bruk – that allows consumers to easily separate the layers by tearing the paper carton in half. Read more
Curated by: Matthew Hempstead
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14th December 2022