Secondary Uses For Packaging

People are often so focused on whether a product or material is recyclable that it is often forgotten that reuse of the items maybe more environmentally responsible. Recycling, after all requires considerable investment of energy and resources into collection, transportation, cleaning, sorting and reprocessing of materials.

Considering the hierarchy of waste reduction, reuse is second only to reduce (which for packaging is limited by requirements to successfully preserve and protect the product). Extending the useful life of the material or item through reuse, means the resources and energy used for the original manufacture are more effectively used. Reuse can also reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill (or to other waste streams), and may reduce the consumption of additional resources by preventing the need for new products.
With a growing concern for the environment and sustainability, designing packaging with a secondary use is a great way in which companies can put their corporate social responsibility views into practice, create visibility and improve their brand image.
There are many different streams of packaging reuse, starting from simple things such as reusing a glass jar or bottle as a vase, to packs that have been specifically engineered to become something useful – often related to the product packaged. A great example is Hanger Pack, where the corrugate packaging of the T-shirt you ordered online becomes a hanger for clothing contained within. Not only does this divert the material from landfill and other waste streams but if this prevents the consumer from buying a new set of hangers then raw material consumption is also reduced. In fact, the benefits go further than the material savings of the hangers since all energy and resource inputs required through the whole life of the product must be considered – as well as the waste and emissions that will inevitably also be produced during material extraction, processing and manufacture and transport.

The secondary packaging use can also be completely unrelated to the original product, for example, Coca Cola’s fun and novel 2nd lives campaign. 16 bottle caps were designed that enable empty bottles to have 2nd lives as useful, reusable products, such as a water-pistol or a soap dispenser. Not only does this provide environmental benefits through extending the life of the packaging, it was also a great marketing campaign in itself – adding value to the brand!

Surprising and delighting customers by exceeding expectations is a great way to reinforce product and brand loyalty and designing an unexpected secondary use to your packaging is one way this can be done.
With the right brains and design skills, the possibilities, resource savings and waste reductions to be had are all immense!

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