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Packaging in the future

Published 11/04/2012 by Ann Lorentzon

I read an article that I wrote back in 2003 about the message of time, which was that all curves were heading upwards: “Everything will be even faster, change more often, and grow in number.”

It feels as if we’ve matured a little since then. Of course there are demands for constant renewal in today’s market, but there’s also a consideration that involves taking responsibility for what we do, both now and in the future.

Sustainability is a big issue today: we must live our lives in a way that doesn’t ruin things for future generations. This is a major issue, and it involves both industry and politicians. It’s interesting to note in this context that attitudes have changed. Industry always used to be seen as the bad guy, but I believe that present day opinion is a little more nuanced. Is this because many big companies are considerably older than many nation states? Which of these actually has more of an interest in sustainability?

But the issue at hand is packaging. What will packaging be like in the sustainable society of the future? I foresee two possible directions.

One direction involves packaging using resources. This means increased recirculation in society: if we are to reduce our raw material extraction, we need to use the earth’s resources more than once, whether they are renewable or finite.

The other direction involves packaging saving resources. It involves resource efficiency with an overall view: packaging should be the service which ensures that the product arrives at the right place, at the right time and in the right form for its intended use. After all, products that don’t have the right packaging might be completely wasted. That’s a real loss of resources!

The packaging industry’s job for the future is to strike a balance between these two directions and to provide the services required in order to ensure that resources are not lost.

To achieve this in the sustainable way that the future requires, we need insights not only into consumer needs but also into all the requirements that must be fulfilled as effectively as possible throughout the entire value chain. This includes material choices, handling and stresses during the entire distribution process, and knowledge of product properties and how the used packaging will be dealt with.

But how can we hold all these interrelationships together and still achieve the right outcome? It’s not easy – but that’s exactly what makes working with packaging so interesting: ensuring that such a small thing meets so many complex requirements!

 

Ann Lorentzon
Ann Lorentzon works in the group Sustainability at Innventia.

Ann Lorentzon
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