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First of all, it is important to realise that 90% of the environmental impact of product-packaging combinations is generally caused by the packaged product, while the packaging itself is only responsible for roughly 10% of the impact. Making the packaging more sustainable therefore involves more than simply using less material for its production. A packaging can also be made more sustainable by:

  • preventing the wastage of raw materials during its production;
  • tailoring the packaging to fit the product that will be transported in it;
  • using as many renewable or recycled materials as possible for its production;
  • using sustainable technologies and energy during its production;
  • setting up the logistical process as efficiently as possible and avoiding the transport of empty air.

It is also important to prevent product loss resulting from consumer usage. You can do this by taking the question of how consumers handle the product-packaging combination into account during the packaging design process. You should make sure that the packaging does not inspire “unwanted” behaviour, for example food wastage or littering. Think of, for example, packaging materials that are hard to empty completely or packaging for beverages or food that is used out of the house, whose parts can easily become detached.

Vice versa, you can also design packaging materials in such a way that they simulate certain forms of sustainable behaviour. For example, individually packaged portions keep consumers from buying more food than they need. In trying to prevent food and product wastage, it is important to design sustainable packaging materials that are easy to empty, to ensure as little product as possible is left in the packaging upon its disposal. This process starts at the drawing board by keeping the question of how consumers will use your product-packaging combination in mind during the design stage.

Another option is to provide relevant information about the product’s shelf life. Research shows that leaving out the “best before” date on products with a long shelf life reduces food wastage by an average of 12%. It also shows that, on average, 31% less food is disposed of when the “best before” date is replaced with a text like “long shelf life.”

In addition to limiting product wastage, avoiding product loss is important in order to keep the packaging’s ecological footprint as small as possible. This can be achieved by thinking about the best way to use the product and dispose of and recycle the packaging during the packaging design process. More information can be found under 'Disposal behaviour'. The KIDV has also drawn up a guideline with tips for “design for recycling.”

More information

Product loss and packaging materials

Better portioned packaging materials can play a role in reducing product loss, particularly for food products. On the other hand, this will further increase the volume of packaging materials that is used. The challenge is therefore to find the right balance between minimising product losses on the one hand and limiting the amount of packaging material used on the other hand.

In 2016, the KIDV hosted an international round-table session for scientists with the theme of “Product losses and packaging.” The focus was on two key issues:

  • The packaging and the consumer: how can you make the packaging attractive and easy to use, while still keeping it as circular as possible?
  • Packaging optimisation: how can you minimise product losses – for example through improved protection and a longer shelf life for the product – while keeping the packaging as circular as possible?

You can read the report on the “Product losses and packaging” round-table session here.



Packaging for powdered milk
Packaging manufacturer Kornelis Caps & Closures developed a solution for Aldi’s powdered milk, which resulted in improved ease of use, better dosing, 40% less packaging weight, and lower costs. Read for more information.

Packaging of a cleaning agent
For its Mr. Proper brand, Procter & Gamble developed a packaging with a dosing system for cleaning agents. This system releases the right amount of cleaning agent in one go. The product is also concentrated, which leads to for example reduced use of packaging materials and water. Read for more information.