Environmental Issues

165 million cups a day – That’s some market!

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food Packaging on July 2nd, 2010 by Jane Bear – 6 Comments

I find the fact that the UK consumes 165 million cups of tea a day absolutely staggering.

What I find even more amazing though is that UK tea bags are made differently to those used in Europe.  Why should they get 100% biodegradable bags when the UKs are between 70-80% biodegradable.  I understand that the difference is caused by the polypropylene used to seal UK bags and it’s claimed that this is because we have more tea in our bags and therefore the seal needs to be better but…..

I think I’d rather have a slightly bigger bag with a vegetable gum seal that to be endlessly stirring a piece of polypropylene around in my drink – especially considering the number of cups of tea the average person in the UK must drink per day.


Interesting article from beverage daily

Would you like to get your hands on some EC funding to help develop & commercialise your packaging ideas?

Posted in Business News, Design, Design Cognition News, Environmental Issues, Healthcare & Pharma, Innovation, Materials, Technology on May 21st, 2010 by Chris Penfold – 6 Comments
EC Packaging Project Funding available

EC Packaging Project Funding available

Later this year (July) it is expected that the EC will publish a call for proposals to support the packaging industry to find new ways of adding value to its products. Large companies (>250 employees) can receive a grant of 50% towards their costs whilst SMEs can receive grants up to 75%.  The European Commission is looking for proposals that produce packaging concepts exhibiting the following properties:

· superb barrier properties in terms of durability and protection capabilities utilizing e.g. nanocoatings or thin films for enhancing consumer safety and to extend the shelf life of packaged, perishable goods;

· smart features incorporating nanotechnology such as indicators, sensors, protection against counterfeit and tampering, product traceability indicators, interactive components or biometric components which can be added to packaging  using low cost printing technologies, such as roll-to-roll printing;

· utilisation of materials derived from a sustainable and renewable source, recyclability or biodegradability, and the applicability of resource-efficient (material, energy, water) package production processes.

Maybe you are part of a large corporation that has identified some opportunities but don’t have the finance or resource to take them forward  (e.g. a sustainability or technology project that has the potential to ‘add value’)
or on the other hand, you could be part of an academic institution, Knowledge Transfer Network or SME who has a technology that is looking for a ‘home’.

Either way – I am looking for opportunities to help match you up, build a ‘value case’ and try and get our hands on some of this funding. So if you are interested – please get in touch: enquiries@designcognition.com (putting ‘EC Funding’ in the title)

Chris Penfold

‘Packaging Can Not Be Viewed In Isolation’

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Materials on April 30th, 2010 by Jane Bear – 7 Comments

So says Barry Pamplin, European packaging technology controller at United Biscuits – and of course he’s right.

United Biscuits have done a lot of work in the past few years to lower the amount of packaging material they use.  Pamplin says that whilst they have targeted using less material and lowering the micron of their films, they haven’t lost sight of the fact that the films are there for a purpose – to protect the product, and if they don’t do there job effectively then ‘any gains in packaging reduction or ease of recycling are destroyed by increased food waste’.

Their latest undertaking is to scale up the amount of recycled packaging material they use by moving their trays from PET to rPET.

It’s also interesting to hear Pamplin’s reasons for not signing up to the Courtauld Commitment 2.

The full article covers other areas that United Biscuits are looking at to cut their packaging and makes and interesting read.  Just follow this link nutraingredients.com

Nice Idea?

Posted in Design, Environmental Issues, Innovation on April 22nd, 2010 by Jane Bear – 23 Comments
No, this isn't a crushed box.

No, this isn't a crushed box.

Nice idea, I’m not sure in reality it’s really going to be practicle though.  It sounds great that you can form it into different sizes of standard boxes, but how strong would it be in transit?  And like the full article says being able to individually size all your parcels might not lead to as much of a cost saving as initially thought – odd shapes don’t stack or form stable pallets! (Jane Bear)

Great concept though and if you want to read the full article just follow this link Fast company

Visiting The Soup – Missing The Point?

Posted in Environmental Issues, Recycling on March 22nd, 2010 by Jane Bear – 7 Comments

I fully appreciate that this headline making trip will help to raise the general public’s awareness or the ‘great Pacific packaging soup’ but have they missed the point a bit?  It’s great that they are using predominantly re-newable and free energy sources and that they have a composting toilet and laptops that run off the power of a bike generator, but in making the hull of the boat out of recycled bottles aren’t they showing that it’s OK to keep making and using all these bottles because other uses can be found for them? 

As the BBC’s full article points out, if this trip were to hit any problems then it could be that they have just delivered an extra 12,000 bottles filled with Carbon Dioxide direct to the packaging soup…

I suppose a wooden boat might not have generated as much media interest, but then maybe it would have been a better message – I’d be really interested to know your thoughts. (Jane Bear)

A boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles has set sail on a voyage from San Francisco to Sydney to spread awareness about pollution in the world’s oceans.  To read the full article on the BBC website just follow this link  Boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles

Another attempt at packaging re-use – Credit for trying

Posted in Environmental Issues, Recycling, Retailers on March 18th, 2010 by Jane Bear – 1 Comment

Interesting and all credit to ASDA for trying out this idea again.  It’s true, there is now far more emphasis placed on the amount and type of packaging used than there was when ASDA last tried this route, but there are other issues.  What proportion of the customers will actually remember to take the pouch back to the store with them and how messy could the filling be are just a couple of the issues that could arise.  It will be interesting to see how it gets on.

As for brands adopting this, I personally can’t see it happening any time soon.  Not because as this article suggests they could loose shelf presence, as I’m sure they would still have products on the shelves around it, but more because of the logistics, how would they stop their products being dispensed into an ASDA own pack.  I’m sure there are packaging solutions to this issue, with different shaped orifices and dispensing nozzles, but it will certainly all need to have been sorted before any of the big brands follow ASDA’s lead. (Jane Bear)

While the idea of refilling your own packs in store is not new, a new trial by ASDA supermarkets in the UK is again attempting to bring this idea from smaller niche outlets into the mainstream. Consumers are being offered ASDA private label fabric softener in a refillable plastic pouch that can be used up to 10 times in store.  To read the full article by Josh Stock, Euromonitor International just follow this link to Packaging World

Packaging soup turns into a bit of a stew!

Posted in Environmental Issues, Innovation, Materials, Opinion, Recycling, Technology on March 12th, 2010 by Jane Bear – 5 Comments

Further to the article that we blogged last Monday ,it seems that some plastics marked as ‘degradable’ might not be as environmentally-friendly as consumers (or even experts) think, according to new Defra-funded research.A packaging solution to the Great Pacific Garbage soup?

The study, carried out by Loughborough University, examined the environmental effects of oxo-degradable plastics which are made from the most common types of plastic, but include small amounts of additives to make them degrade at an accelerated rate. In response to this report, the Co-operative (in the UK) is to drop oxo-degradable plastic bags.

Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager, The Co-operative Food has said that:  “(subsequent to the above) We have also launched the UK’s first home-compostable carrier bag, certified by the Association for Organic Recycling (and to EN 13432), which is accepted for food waste collections by a number of local authorities.”

Products made from compostable plastic are tested and able to bio-degrade within six months.

You can read the full March 11th article at Ready Meals Info (thanks to @packagingradar for bringing that to our attention)

There is also an interesting & related article in Packaging News today which states that:

Apparently, oxo-degradable additive producer Symphony has issued a statement that described the report as the “latest salvo in the oxo- versus hydro-degradable war” and said the allegations were familiar to firms in the sector.

Symphony also said it would be making a full response in due course, but said: “It should be obvious that plastic which self-destructs at the end of its useful life, leaving no harmful residues, is better for the environment than normal or recycled plastic, which can lie or float around for decades.”

It is also interesting that the firm also claimed that Loughborough University had not undertaken any experiments itself and that it was concerned to find that that “two of the three assessors of the report were themselves engaged in bio-based plastics, which is a totally different discipline to oxo- biodegradable”.

The plot thickens………….What do you think?

Chris Penfold

You can read the full Packaging News 12th March article by following this link: Oxo-degradable plastics article

And you can download the full DEFRA report here: Defra Report

DAY 6 – Packaging Tip No6 – Environment & sustainability

Posted in Design, Environmental Issues, Opinion, Recycling, Top 10 Tips, Uncategorized on March 11th, 2010 by Chris Penfold – 4 Comments
Packaging Top Ten Tips

Packaging Top Ten Tips

In order to help you develop your packaging more productively, we have generated a series of  FREE short 1-2 minute videos detailing our Tip Ten Tips for getting it right. We will be posting 1 x video per day on this blog site over a 10 day period – so keep a look out for them – they could save you a £££$$$ fortune in the long run!

DAY 6 – Tip No6: These days the environment is top of everybody’s mind. But, did you know, there is lots of legislation to which you must comply? Also, as new materials continually come on to the market it’s difficult to keep up with it all…find out more in the video…

Enjoy your packaging. Cheers Chris

Today’s Video:

Packaging Tip No6 – Environment & sustainability – by Chris Penfold – Design Cognition

Look out tomorrow for Tip No 7 – Physical protection?…..

A packaging solution to the Great Pacific Garbage soup?

Posted in Environmental Issues, Innovation, Materials, Opinion, Recycling, Technology, Uncategorized on March 8th, 2010 by Chris Penfold – 16 Comments
Pacific rubbish soup

Pacific rubbish soup

As many people know, there is a huge and ever-increasing mountain of rubbish growing in the middle of the Pacific, like a giant festering ’soup’, much of which consists of plastic packaging waste. This has had a massive knock-on affect in the  form of polluted beaches on islands throughout the South Pacific, such as the popular Kamilo beach in Hawaii.

A British company believe that they have a packaging remedy. Symphony Environmental has created a substance that can be added to plastic materials to speed up the degradation time from several decades to just a few months.

Apparently “The special additive, called d2w, is put into plastic products when they are being manufactured. It works by weakening the carbon bonds, lowering the material’s molecular weight and eventually causing a loss of strength. The plastic can be given a set lifespan, depending on what purpose it is ultimately intended for.”

The aim is to get bread bags for instance to degrade in a matter of weeks and other items, designed for a longer shelf-life to degrade over many months.

This sounds great in theory and clearly a lot of research has taken place since this company was set up in 1995. We are in favour of any initiatives that help reduce/manage packaging waste. However, there are a number of issues that need to be clarified and addressed (if they haven’t been already).

What happens when one freezes items such as bread, to extend shelf-life? Will the degradation process be retarded or halted? Many items, such as toiletry products are used way beyond their stated shelf life. Does that mean that these items could degrade in the cupboard whilst still in-use?

It is also interesting to note that there seems to be “stern opposition from rivals” as the “plastics industry is split into two camps”: There are those that back ‘oxy-biodegradable’ (like dw2) that breaks-down simply with contact with air and those that back ‘bio-degradable’, which require more specific conditions such as burial in the ground and elevated temperature, to work.

I’m not so sure that there is such a defined “split” within the industry and can see the merits and issues of both of these approaches and, in our  opinion, both should continue to be developed. In terms of ‘Oxy-biodegradable’, as I’ve already mentioned above, degradation before end of shelf-life/use is an issue and what happens if a product is, for instance, left in direct sunlight – will this alter the degradation time frame? As far as ‘Bio-degradable’ goes – it is my understanding that unless specific elevated temperatures are reached,  degradation will not commence. So, for it to work properly, industrial bio-degradation facilities are required  – these materials will not degrade properly in a normal household composting bin.

Michael Stephen of Symphony also talks about bio-producers  having convinced British farmers that “crop-based plastics are best” but that “this is wrong…because when they are recycled they give off methane”. On top of this there area a number of concerns with these products around the use of scarce food resources to make packaging.

All of these materials could also present a potential issue of contaminating ‘normal’ recycling waste if not clearly identified & managed properly and I’m not sure that this issue is being addressed. Chris Penfold

What do you think? Let us know.

Taken from an article written by Ben Marlow which appeared in the UK Sunday Times on 7th March 2010. You can read the full article at the Times Online here: Great Pacific Garbage Patch article

Support for Packaging – at last!

Posted in Drinks Packaging, Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Social Media on February 15th, 2010 by Jane Bear – 2 Comments

Packaging seems to have spent far to long now being demonised in the press, it’s nice to see an article in a main stream newspaper that actually defends packaging and it’s use to protect and prolong the shelf life of food.

Very interesting and thought provoking article by the New York Times.  Interestingly some of the comments below the article appear to have been submitted by individuals who haven’t read the article very carefully.