Posts Tagged ‘compostable’

Medical packaging & devices go greener

Posted in Design, Environmental Issues, Government, Healthcare & Pharma, Materials, Recycling, cost-optimisation on July 15th, 2010 by Chris Penfold – 2 Comments
Medical device packaging

Medical device packaging

Traditionally medical products, devices and their related packaging has been ’sidelined’ in much of the debate around the environment, where the major focus has been on retail products. However, it is estimated (Mulligan) that medical packaging contributes between 30% to 50% (or more) of the medical waste stream. There is a lot of work going on in the background, within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, and further afield globally, as healthcare practitioners are put under increasing pressure to ‘go green’, become more ’sustainable’ and reduce their ‘carbon footprint’.  These initiatives go right to the core of their infrastructure, looking at everything from operating theatre furniture and equipment, through to medical devices and all related packaging.

However, there are wider ramifications, as it apparent that these sustainability initiatives will also enable huge cost benefits, improved regulatory compliance, and enhanced corporate social responsibility (CSR) when done correctly. So no pressure then ;-) !

On the face of it, this looks like a huge and daunting task, but with the aid of modern modelling techniques, such as those used by Walmart and by Marks & Spencer (M&S) in their ‘Plan A’, data and issues can be quite easily ‘chunked-down’ into manageable bite-size segments. This can help prioritisation and enable ‘quick wins’ on the highest ‘value creating’ initiatives.

It is important that suppliers and medical device manufacturers think about these sweeping changes and, if not already doing so, start to design and develop medical devices & healthcare packaging to meet these more stringent requirements. Next-generation packaging must be: 1) easy to manufacture; 2) meet stringent regulatory requirements; 3) meet the needs of distributors, healthcare institutions, and medical practitioners; and 4) minimize impact on the environment.

Mulligan talks in greater detail about all of this in an interesting article ‘Using a Life Cycle Analysis approach in medical packaging‘ recently published on the Healthcare Packaging website. Have a read and let us know what you think!

Chris Penfold

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

Chartered Environmentalist + WRAP Technical Advisors x 2 = Good News

Posted in Associations, Awards, Design, Design Cognition News, Drinks Packaging, Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Gift Packaging, Healthcare & Pharma, Opinion, Recycling, cost-optimisation on December 14th, 2009 by Chris Penfold – 17 Comments

Just a quick note to confirm that both Annie and myself have been honoured with the title of Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) by the Society for the Environment, through our membership of the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) and because of our life-long commitment to developing sustainable packaging solutions in our day-to-day projects. It’s nice to have it recognised and, by implication, recognition of the fact that packaging actually provides a beneficial (environmental) role in society.

This also sits nicely with our appointment last year as Technical Advisors to WRAP (the UK government-run Waste Resources & Action Programme) in ‘Waste Minimisation – Packaging Product Waste’. I feel that a key component of this has been our understanding of the requirements of present environmental legislation, in particular the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging waste) and Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations, which have been key in a number of recent environmental & sustainability assessments

‘Sustainable development’ to me is all about taking a ‘helicopter’ view of any product development to understand:

  • environmental impacts throughout the whole supply chain (from raw material extraction, through use & disposal, to reuse and recovery) whilst
  • attempting to meet consumer convenience needs,
  • BUT minimising the overall environmental impact through intelligent design of pack (primary, secondary & tertiary), using the optimum material specifications & most economical footprint possible.

I believe that key to our CEnv award was our continued application of the principles of sustainable environmental management and development in our work. Over my 30 year career ‘the environment’ has become ever-more prominent on everybody’s agenda, evolving from the early days of the ‘Topfer Decree’ to the more recent ‘Plan A’. We have endeavoured throughout to apply the principles of sustainable environmental management and development in all of our work as ‘environmental packaging champions’:

  • Acting as an internal consultants for marketers & other business stakeholders – advising on ‘fitness for purpose’ and ‘environmental best-practice’.
  • Highlighting issues with existing packaging to our work colleagues
  • Applying ‘sustainable principles in the hundreds of packaging developments on which We’ve worked

Moving forwards, I pledge that Design Cognition will continue applying the principles of sustainable development and environmental responsibility in all of our work. As CEO of a company that not only develops packaging but also acts in a consultancy capacity (advising on packaging ‘sustainability’ & ‘the environment’) I carry the mantle with a great deal of pride and self-fulfilment – enjoying making a ‘real difference’ in the world.

  • Our initial discussions with clients always encompass sustainable aspects – and that will continue
  • One of our ‘values’ (shown on our website) is to be ‘environmentally aware’:
  • “bearing in mind our impact on the environment and eco-systems in all that we develop and in our day-to-day business”
  • Through this ethos I will encourage all in Design Cognition to ‘live’ our environmental policy as a holistic approach to encompass not only work we do for clients but also in our day-to-day business activities.

We look forward to working with you :-)


Global experts meet this week to develop environmental standards

Posted in Associations, Business News, Environmental Issues, Government, Recycling, Tweets on December 10th, 2009 by Chris Penfold – 8 Comments

Stockholm, Sweden — Experts from 15 countries are meeting this week to begin developing standards to cover environmental issues related to packaging such as reuse, recycling and composting.

recyclingAbout 70 delegates from China, Japan, Korea, the United States and 11 European countries are meeting in Sweden for the first gathering for the SC4 Packaging and Environment committee.

Published on 12th Dec 2009 and brought to our attention by our Twitter friend @packagindiva – thanks JoAnn! It would be good to get some consistency in this area. Well overdue. What to you think? Chris

The full article can be read here:

DIY sector gets its own ‘Courtauld’ commitment

Posted in Business News, Environmental Issues, Recycling, Retailers on September 25th, 2009 by Chris Penfold – 14 Comments

Simeon Goldstein,, 25 September 2009

Six UK DIY retailers and brands have signed up to a Courtauld-style voluntary agreement to reduce packaging and waste to landfill.

Argos, B&Q, Focus, Henkel, Homebase and Wickes have agreed to achieve a 15% packaging reduction and halve waste to landfill by the end of 2012

Read the full article here: DIY sector gets its own ‘Courtauld’ commitment |

New light-emitting biomaterial could improve tumor imaging – what about uses in packaging?

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Healthcare & Pharma, Innovation, Materials, Opinion, Technology on August 10th, 2009 by Chris Penfold – 11 Comments

A new material developed at the University of Virginia – an oxygen nanosensor that couples a light-emitting dye with a biopolymer – simplifies the imaging of oxygen-deficient regions of tumors. Such tumors are associated with increased cancer aggressiveness and are particularly difficult to treat.

Oxygen nanosensors are powerful new research tools that one day may also be used for the diagnosis and detection of diseases and for planning treatment strategies. It is conceivable that these tools could have useful applications in the packaging industry for the detection of oxygen ingress into packaged food products and providing a shelf-life indication – watch out for more news in this area – as it becomes available. Chris Penfold

The new material is based on poly lactic acid (PLA), a biorenewable, biodegradable polymer that is safe for the body and the environment, and is easy and inexpensive to fabricate in many forms, including films, fibers and nanoparticles. It is useful for medical research as well as environmental research, sustainable design and green products, too.

Read the full article here:  New light-emitting biomaterial could improve tumor imaging.

Source: Nanowerk News via University of Virginia 10th Aug 2009

Bioplastic bodies trade blows as row breaks out

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Materials on July 23rd, 2009 by Jane Bear – 13 Comments

By Rory Harrington, 23-Jul-2009

A war of words has broken out within the bioplastics packaging industry with two trade bodies levelling a series of negative allegations about the different sectors.

The controversy was ignited yesterday after industry association European Bioplastics EB publicly denounced claims made by the oxo-biodegradeable OB industry as “misleading” and “free of substance”.

via Bioplastic bodies trade blows as row breaks out.

Packaging Strategy: Defra’s document – Design Cognition opinion

Posted in Environmental Issues, Government, Legal, Opinion, Recycling, Retailers, Uncategorized on June 25th, 2009 by Chris Penfold – 6 Comments

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Firstly, I must say that it’s great news that we’ve finally got a strategy being developed for packaging in a low carbon economy – it’s a huge step forward.

The report suggests a move away “from weight-based to carbon-based (packaging waste) targets” taking in to account “whole life cycle impacts.” which is a bold move – but how will this be implemented and managed in a consistent manner?

There is mention of “Treating packaging waste as a valuable resource”. Yes, we should encourage:
“• more recycling by householders; with schemes that collect all the main packaging materials” (but let’s get UK wide consistency and make it easier for consumers to differentiate & sort!). As Dick Searle points out (see Packaging News below), “recyclability is not the problem – 85% of packaging is recyclable, while just 35% of packaging is actually recycled.”
“• local authorities and businesses treating waste packaging as a resource, leading to more recycling by businesses” (Yes, most businesses will respond to cash incentives for recycling schemes but we should not lose sight of other ways of processing waste and think of latent energy recovery/capture.  Efforts should be given to an all encompassing sustainability policy/programme – i don’t see any mention of that anywhere! – or have I missed something?)

As a footnote, I’d like to say that anything that enables consumers to appreciate the benefits of packaging and stop seeing it only as ‘waste’, is a good thing. I also think that we are in dire need of a government strategy on ‘Food Waste’ = otherwise we are missing a ‘big trick’ here. Around 30% of all food purchased is thrown away. If it wasn’t packaged (to extend its shelf life) that figure would probably be over 50%.

So we will continue to work on innovation for our sustainability projects, reducing and minimising wherever we can, as consumers demand, but we must not lose sight of the need for choice and convenience.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments below….

Related articles:

Hilary Benn unveils long-awaited Packaging Strategy June 2009

If you want to read the full version of the DEFRA report, you can download it here:

Defra Packaging Strategy – full version

If you’d like to read the opinions of other packaging industry ‘experts’ you can find them here:

 Packaging News – article on Defra Strategy – Various Industry Views

Sunchips debuts compostable bag

Posted in Environmental Issues, Food Packaging, Innovation, Materials on June 23rd, 2009 by Jane Bear – 5 Comments


PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay is rolling out compostable packaging for its SunChips snack line bit by bit this year, with a fully compostable bag due by Earth Day in 2010.

Lauren R. Hartman, Senior Editor — Packaging Digest, 6/22/2009 4:00:00 PM

Just in time for Earth Day, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Div. is rolling out compostable packaging bit by bit this year, with a fully compostable bag due out on Earth Day in 2010. Applied to bags of its SunChips brand, a popular line of multigrain snacks, the plant-based, biodegradable material is a structure made of NatureWorks’ ( polylactic acid (PLA) film, said to decompose over 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin or pile—at home or at an industrial composting site.

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