Essay Title

Breaking the Packaging Cycle: Developing Responsible Consumption and Production for a Sustainable World

As I walked through the bustling supermarket aisles, my eyes were drawn to the numerous cookies, each with attractive and tempting packaging. The shelves filled with choices that drew me in with their vibrant colours. I picked one at random and eagerly bought it. But when I got home and started to open the package, I was faced by layer after layer of packaging. I had to take off the plastic tape, the outside box, the plastic container, and lastly, the separate package holding the cookies. As I was taking the wrapper off, I couldn’t help but think about what packaging there was for the cookies. I questioned myself, was my purchase driven by the allure of the lovely packaging, or was it truly about the cookies themselves? This self-reflection led me to delve deeper into the issue, recognizing the significant problem of excessive packaging and its implications for Sustainable Development Goal 12, which aims to promote responsible consumption and production patterns.

 

Within this goal, the issue of overpackaging stands as a significant challenge. Overpackaging not only contributes to environmental degradation but also hinders efforts towards sustainable development. This essay delves into the implications of overpackaging and emphasizes the importance of responsible consumption and production in achieving SDG 12.

Overpackaging, characterized by the extreme use of materials and resources in product packaging, poses a grave environmental concern. It often involves the utilization of non-recyclable or non-biodegradable materials like single-use plastics which leads to resource depletion, waste generation, and pollution throughout the product life cycle. Moreover, according to (Ribble Packaging Ltd, 2022), excess and wasteful packaging can contribute to air pollution,  it worsens climate change by increasing greenhouse gas emissions during material extraction, manufacturing, and transportation. The magnitude of this issue is staggering, as evident from the mountains of packaging waste in landfills and the pollution of oceans and natural habitats.

 

Consumers play a key role in driving change towards responsible consumption and production. By making informed choices and demanding sustainable alternatives, consumers can influence businesses to adopt more responsible packaging practices. Opting for products with minimal or eco-friendly packaging and supporting companies that prioritize sustainable practices are essential steps. For example, Apple has taken significant measures to improve its packaging and reduce waste. In 2020, Apple made a notable change to the packaging of its iPhones (Edie Newsroom, 2020). They decided to no longer include a separate plug adaptor with the purchase of a new phone.

 

Apple’s initiative to rethink its packaging approach demonstrates how a small modification can lead to significant waste reduction. It has not only reduced the company’s environmental footprint but also has set an example for other electronics manufacturers to follow suit. By incorporating similar strategies in their own packaging designs, companies can contribute to responsible consumption and production, aligning with SDG 12 and promoting a more sustainable future.

 

In the realm of responsible production, innovative packaging designs play a vital role in minimizing the environmental impact of consumer goods. The use of plastic as a packaging material poses a significant threat to ecosystems and human health (Vuk et al., 2023). As a design student, to address this challenge there are various ideas to promote sustainable packaging practices that can be explored. One approach is to incorporate biodegradable materials, such as compostable plastics or bio-based polymers, which can break down naturally and reduce environmental harm. 

 

Another avenue is the minimalist packaging designs that use fewer materials and focus on simplicity can also contribute to responsible production by reducing waste and energy consumption. For instance, skincare products can feature clean, simple white containers with no excessive branding or decorative elements. The focus is on showcasing the quality of the product itself, promoting a sense of purity and simplicity. By embracing these innovative packaging ideas, a more sustainable future can be contributed.

 

Addressing the issue of overpackaging requires collaboration among stakeholders at various levels. Governments can introduce regulations and incentives to encourage sustainable packaging practices, such as setting packaging waste reduction targets or providing tax benefits for environmentally friendly packaging. Businesses can collaborate with suppliers, packaging designers, and trash management businesses to develop innovative packaging waste-reduction solutions that are not harmful to product safety or quality. Sharing best practices, skills, and resources across industries and sectors can help the shift to responsible consumption and production.

Additionally, education and awareness are crucial in promoting responsible consumption and production. Governments, companies, and civil society organizations should invest in campaigns that raise awareness about the environmental impacts of overpackaging and provide consumers with information on sustainable alternatives. Furthermore, incorporating sustainability into our own design projects and assignments allows us to lead by example and inspire others to adopt sustainable packaging practices. By fostering a culture of conscious consumerism through education and awareness, individuals can make more informed choices and actively contribute to the reduction of overpackaging.

 

In conclusion, overpackaging poses a significant challenge to achieving SDG 12’s goal of responsible consumption and production. However, through responsible consumption choices, responsible production practices, collaboration, and innovation, we can address this issue. Apple’s example of reducing packaging waste by eliminating the plug adaptor from their iPhone packaging showcases the positive impact of such measures. By embracing responsible consumption and production, we can protect the environment, conserve resources, and move closer to a more sustainable future. The collective efforts of individuals, businesses, and governments are crucial in transforming our current packaging practices into ones that prioritize environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

 

References

Edie Newsroom. (2020, October 16). How sustainable is the new iPhone 12? edie. https://www.edie.net/how-sustainable-is-the-new-iphone-12/

Ribble Packaging Ltd. (2022). Packaging Problems? Introducing Panotec Automation. Ribble. https://ribble-pack.co.uk/blog

Vuk, A., Szűcs, I., & Bauerné Gáthy, A. (2023). Packaging waste and recycle in EU. International Review of Applied Sciences and Engineering, 14(3), 402-412. https://doi.org/10.1556/1848.2023.00615

Photo Reference

Photo by Valeria Boltneva: https://www.pexels.com/photo/box-of-macarons-cookies-18580209/

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