Often days are spent stressing about getting the details to the latest project just right. Sometimes when the pressure is rising, I’ll often remind myself that branding and packaging design is not life or death. Ultimately the design we’ve spent ages crafting, so customers will pick it up, will invariable end up in the bin.
But now things are different, it’s all too clear that the industry we work in is about life and death and not in a good way. The rubbish is killing our marine life and choking our environment.
This is not a recent thing of course, but it’s been thrust into the limelight recently through David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2. Images of pelican chicks feeding on plastic and vast quantities of waste creating shameful islands in the sea has bought the issue to the attention of the masses and onto the political agenda.
Theresa May has now proposed a 25 year plan to crack down on plastics, urging supermarkets to introduce ‘plastic-free’ aisles. Iceland were the first to seize the opportunity to make headlines, claiming they’ll achieve the feat ahead of everyone else.
But what does this really mean for the industry? 2042 seems a scarily long way off and it’s clear that action is needed sooner rather than later.
Plastic has long been the friend of the retailer – helping preserve the life of products helping in the transit of goods.
You could argue that Iceland is better placed than the other retailers to achieve the goal of ‘plastic-free’. The very nature of freezing preserves food and alternatives to plastic ready meal trays have long been in development. (Certainly since I worked in retail over 10 years ago).
One thing is definitely clear though, retailers and the packaging industry as a whole, needs to up its game. Aside from Aldi and Co-op, six of the major supermarkets have refused to reveal their plastic packaging usage which in itself is telling.
And so what will the future aisles look like? Apples, no longer ridiculously packaged like tennis balls? Avocado’s in their natural form instead of at least two layers of plastic surrounding them (a personal bugbear of mine!)? Let’s hope so!
In their blog post; Wrap talk about the importance of finding circular solutions for dealing with plastics.
It’s clearly not just about stopping these materials ending up in the sea or on the streets but using resources sustainably.
One way to do this from an artwork perspective, would be through better recycling instructions. Something I often note as being poor on packs. Having worked with The Co-op for a number of years, I would say they are one of the leaders when it comes to on-pack labeling.
Our part of the process has always been to make the pack look beautiful using pre-determined pack formats and cutter guides. But could we do more? Maybe it’s time that designers challenged brand owners and retailers more on the formats they choose.
Maybe we should be offering a little more creative thought to how we solve the plastic crisis and help our clients meet their targets on waste.
It’s certainly something to think very carefully about before jumping right into the next brief.