Responsible packaging is the aim of all.
Companies have a commercial interest in packaging goods responsibly, because packaging represents a cost.
Consumers are looking to them to ensure food and drink is fresh, wholesome and free from contamination and that other goods are blemish-free and in perfect working order. Consumers also want packaging to be easy to open and easy to recycle.
Society generally wants companies to exercise corporate responsibility in looking after the environment and conserving resources.
The government and enforcement agencies are looking to them to obey the laws relating to producer responsibility and the eco-design requirements that packaging must meet.
Their employers and shareholders are looking to them to save money and, as packaging is a cost of doing business, companies are careful to use no more than they need . Generally products are not over-packaged, although as with any industry, there are occasional instances of bad practice which INCPEN is keen to see rooted out.
However, a report by the Institute of European Environmental Policy suggests that under-packaging can be much more of an issue that over-packaging in terms of wasted energy and resources from ruined goods.
INCPEN helps companies respond positively to pressures for responsible packaging by assisting them in reviewing their activities against best practice.
To help manufacturers improve their packaging at the design stage, this seven point code of practice is in place to address environmental concerns, consumer needs, and functional considerations.
Developed by INCPEN together with the UK Packaging Federation, the Food & Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium, the Responsible Packaging Code of Practice was originally produced in 1998 and has subsequently been updated. It is endorsed by the UK Government and the Advisory Body to Trading Standards Officers.
The Code has been widely used by regulatory bodies and companies in the UK and has been translated for use in other countries. Over 85% of UK packaging chain companies commend it to their members.
Product designers, packaging designers, marketing managers and procurement managers are often asked to make their packaging more sustainable. But how can they go about this and where do they start?
Answering these questions is the aim of the 60-page PackGuide, the result of collaboration between INCPEN and Envirowise, a government-funded initiative dedicated to the sustainable use of resources in business. The guide shows how to combine eco-design principles with packaging functionality – not forgetting the legal requirements.
Good packaging is packaging that protects products throughout their journey from farm or factory to the final end user with minimal environmental impact. As the guide says, it is not a matter of ‘good materials’ versus ‘bad materials’, but of matching materials to what the packaging designer is trying to do – prolong product shelf-life, eliminate one layer of packaging, lightweight the packaging, improve recyclability, increase recycled content. All types of materials and packaging can be designed to help consumers live more sustainable lifestyles.
INCPEN and a number of Trading Standards Officers have prepared a guide for dotcom packaging.
Not all of the traditional roles of packaging used for regular shop-bought goods are needed for products ordered over the internet and delivered to home but there are other roles, such as including individual addresses and responding to courier requirements that are needed.