Packaging Challenges: Innovations in Sustainability

Posted by Rob Helmke | Tuesday, August 20, 2013 0 Comments

No matter how iconic your product packaging becomes, there's always room for innovation—especially when it comes to improving sustainability. As leaders in the plastic packaging design industry, we at PI are always researching and experimenting with new ways to make our products more eco-friendly. While we look for viable ways of improving our use of plastic, another notable name with a highly recognizable packaging design is taking its experimenting to a novel—but potentially impractical—extreme.

Coke's "Cool" Product Packaging

Coca-Cola has one of the most iconic packaging designs in the world, but this summer, it’s gone—well, almost. The company has launched a new bottle made entirely of ice, shaped in the classic hourglass design with a mold, delivered, and then filled on-site with soda. It hasn't debuted stateside, but has made a splash on the Colombian beaches where it's being sold—the bottle itself keeps the drink cold, and when it melts, all that's left behind is the bracelet-sized rubber sleeve it was wrapped in, branded with the Coca-Cola logo. Is it innovative? Absolutely. But is it sustainable?

Coke touts that the new ice bottle is a step forward for sustainability, as it eliminates the plastic packaging of a typical bottle. As others have pointed out, though, this isn't necessarily all there is to it—one must also consider the manufacturing process that makes the ice bottles, the purified water that is used, the energy cost of keeping them cold in transit and the rubber sleeves that are left behind after the bottle melts.[1] While the ice bottle is an interesting product packaging experiment, it seems challenging for long-term implementation, particularly in regards to sustainability.

Industry-wide Improvements

While the ice bottle's novelty has earned it some well-deserved publicity, it likely isn't a solution that will change the plastic packaging industry for the long-term. Other advances, however, are already doing so—and have been for years. Recently, members of the National Hydration Council (NHC) announced that over the last five years, the amount of plastic used in PET bottles has decreased an average of 12 percent.[2]

It isn't the flashiest change, but it's one that bodes well for both our industry and our environment. At PI, we know that our challenge every day is to continue innovating—not always in big leaps for short-term gains, but in increments that add up to significant and sustainable change. By finding ways to improve the packaging design industry, manufacturers like us can continue making plastic an increasingly versatile and eco-friendly packaging solution—and what could be cooler than that?


The Secrets of Successful Packaging

Topics: Custom Packaging, Design, Environment, Plastics, Thermoforming