As we have once again been buried up to our necks in wrapping paper, battled non-cooperative plastic packaging, and filled up our recycling bins with cardboard boxes, it’s comforting to know innovation never stops. While many of the newest ideas are hitting consumer applications first, perhaps they will point to new directions for electronics manufacturing as well.
Packaging trends suggest a wide range of startups, researchers, and big companies are committed to finding solutions that match the buzzwords du jour – sustainable, bio-degradable, natural, and eco-friendly.
Here are some sustainability trends in packaging that we think will gain momentum in 2017:
Multiple uses: Great packaging protects not only your product, but also your brand. But what if the packaging is part of the product itself? That is the case with innovations such as the expandable bowl by Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine. Using 100% bio-based and biodegradable materials, the company created a cellulose wrapper that hugs freeze-dried food and morphs into a bowl when hot water is poured into the spout. The bowl ― a sustainable packaging award winner ― is now in good company and we expect more will follow.
Unconventional materials: Egg shells, fermented sugars, barley, and wheat ribbons. Those were the materials used to create, in turn:
- Bio-compostable films: Nanoparticles from waste eggshells helped researchers at Tuskegee University in Alabama make a plastic film that is completely sustainable and 700% more flexible than other bioplastic blends. Film made of the new material could be used in retail packaging, grocery bags and food containers.
- A prototype PHBottle: The European PHBottle project aims to initially create a bottle, cap, and sleeve, although use in other applications (non-food packaging and non-packaging uses) will be tested. The bioplastic material used to make the bottle comes from the transformation of organic matter found in juice processing by-products.
- Edible six-pack rings for beer: Imagine washing down the six-pack ring with your favorite beer. Although that moment is not quite here yet, the future is looking up for a piece of plastic that is notorious for ensnaring wildlife. The first bio-degradable edible six-pack ring for beer is the result of a partnership between Saltwater Brewery; We Believers, an advertising agency; and Entelequia, Inc., a small startup in Mexico. Made from barley and wheat ribbons spent grain from the brewing process, the rings are safe for wildlife to eat and sturdy enough to support the cans.
Reusable packaging: The throw-away culture is not for everyone. In fact, Mintel’s Global Packaging Trends 2017 shows 63% of U.S. consumers actively seek out packages they can re-use. More than half of consumers also say they would prefer to buy foods with minimal or even no packaging. With such great demand for waste reduction, innovation is bound to pick up even more momentum.
What do you think 2017 will bring in terms of sustainable packaging for the electronics industry? Let us know about promising innovations you’ve seen.