Amcor describes how the circular economy is disrupting product and packaging design.
Disruptive design and collaboration are accelerating the move to a more sustainable future, where products, and their packaging, are more easily used, disassembled, and regenerated, according to Helen Alexander, a London-based writer specialising in business, entrepreneurship and innovation.
With increasing unity, global experts in design, manufacturing, and technology describe how the linear take-make-dispose economy, where products and packaging serve one purpose before being thrown away, is flawed. The undeniable reality that we live on a finite planet with finite resources was the inspiration for speakers at the recent Big Ideas event series, hosted by global provider of rigid & flexible packaging, Amcor. The events were designed to call for disruptive design and increased collaboration to accelerate the move toward a circular economy, where products and packaging are designed to be recycled and repurposed, and remain useful beyond the life of the original item.
Embracing the circular economy
Amcor believes that to imagine a future without waste we should adopt an approach that mimics the circularity of nature, where materials continuously flow through the ‘value circle’. This means products and packaging can have multiple functions and uses depending on the stage of their lifecycle. The waste of today becomes the resource of tomorrow.
Imagination alone is not enough however, and the company stresses that a systematic shift to a circular economy relies on a collaborative, not competitive, approach to problem solving.
The Virtuous Circle initiative in South Africa shows that it is possible to reduce food waste, improve childhood nutrition, and promote sustainability at the same time. The project, coordinated by DuPont in close collaboration with Amcor and other partners, distributes Amcor-manufactured multilayer film pouches that contain purified water and a nutritious meal powder in one package. The children squeeze the pouch to break the internal seal and mix the water with the dry ingredients, then drink directly from the pouch. Once used, the pouches are collected and converted into durable school desks and even housing.
Creating a post-disposable world
So how can designers support this shift in thinking and create products and packaging that take into account the larger ecosystem? As sustainability strategist Dr Leyla Acaroglu shared in her Big Ideas keynote address, it’s important to take a more systematic view at every stage of the product and packaging lifecycle, from development and manufacturing to recycling and reuse. The task involves designing for a system that will enable the product to work in a more circular way.
Commenting on the recent Big Ideas series of expert talks, many delegates said the panel discussions and presentations encouraged conversations between packaging producers, consumer trend experts, brand owners and recyclers, offering a space in which to tackle issues that the industry and its customers face today. For those aspiring to develop circular solutions, there is support. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastics Economy initiative, of which Amcor is a core member, recently announced a $2million New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize to help find solutions that keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.
It’s possible to watch highlights from the Big Ideas event at Interpack 2017, or view videos of the discussions and download speaker presentations from Amcor’s post-event page, which enables website visitors to learn more about the circular economy and a range of innovative sustainability initiatives, as well as discover talks on consumer engagement and packaging trends, and the latest barrier materials.
*Figure 1: World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey & Company, A New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics (2016) www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications 1. Anaerobic digestion 2. The role of, and boundary conditions for, energy recovery in the New Plastics Economy needs to be further investigated.
Source: Project Mainstream analysis