Eliminate plastic items
More recyclable formats
Ambition level considerations: An ambitious plastic minimization target for highly applicable packaging types, such as multi-wrapping (if elimination is not an option), is 80% by 2030. Achieving this target will often require product and/or packaging redesign, such as switching from six-pack wraps to multi-pack handles (e.g., Nature Multi Pack by KHS). Shifting to a concentrated product (e.g., concentrated all-purpose cleaners) could make even higher minimization ambition levels possible. After a careful assessment of recyclability, ambitious smartweighting can minimize around 30% of plastics. For example, ALPLA recorded a 28% material reduction by lightweighting milk bottles while WRAP reports a 30% material reduction in stretch film following the simple modification of existing equipment (7). In other cases, only a 10-15% material reduction is feasible, such as reducing the size of liner back seals by using a new sealing approach (e.g., Marks & Spencer salad packaging (7)).
Considerations on different packaging formats: Minimization is currently most applicable for the following types of packaging:
Bottled products such as beverages, cleaning products, and personal care products; PET/HDPE/LDPE/PP bottles for syrup or other condiments; and trays and pots used for products like yogurt, fruit, and vegetables – high potential.
Stretch wrap used for fruit and vegetable and other wrapping, pouches, and plastic bags, such as for bread – moderate to high potential.
Meeting shifting consumer expectations: Minimizing overpackaging can score an important win with certain consumers. Although consumers rank the environmental impact of a product’s packaging below other factors– such as hygiene and food safety, shelf life, or ease of use – a U.S. survey found that 55% of respondents are still extremely or very concerned about the environmental impact of product packaging (4).
Minimizing plastic packaging is in line with this trend: Overpackaged items may even turn more eco-conscious consumers off. However, the new packaging should still meet consumer expectations for functionality and user experience (6).
Reduced environmental impacts: By achieving material savings and improving the efficiency per individual packaging, plastic minimization can reduce GHG emissions from plastic production, transportation of products and waste, use of natural resources, and land use space associated with disposal (2).
Consumer acceptance: Product changes require the engagement and acceptance of consumers to be successfully adopted, especially for solutions that amend the product itself, such as by shifting to concentrates.
Supply chain collaboration: Collaborating with supply chain partners can be necessary to innovate and scale minimization solutions, such as the development of more concentrated products.
Mindset shift of packaging designers: The view on how much packaging is needed is changing. Many companies are starting to question the need for packaging in different applications, encouraging them to minimize plastics to the necessary amount. It is imperative that packaging designers also adopt this lens when designing products and packaging. (1)
Smartweighting (e.g., thinner bottles or pouches)
Make the product more concentrated (e.g., shampoo or lemonade concentrate)
(1) Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Upstream Innovation. A guide to packaging solutions. (Link)
(2) EPA: Reducing Wasted Food & Packaging: A Guide for Food Services and Restaurants. (Link)
(3) European Economic and Social Committee: Recycling food packaging & food waste in plastics revolution. (Link)
(4) McKinsey (2020). Sustainability in packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers. (Link)
(5) Packaging Europe. (Link)
(6) Packaging Fed. (Link)
(7) WRAP (2009). Efficient use of resources in breakfast cereal design packaging. (Link)