Sustainable packaging has received a good amount of coverage in recent years, but identifying ideas and ways forward has been challenging. However, a high-level working group of more than 80 experts from the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry fueled the development of a new white paper, “Uncovering the Next Innovation Curve in Sustainable Packaging,” a playbook for the transition from plastic flexible films.
RCD Packaging Innovation, an innovation firm focused on sustainable packaging materials and technologies, coordinated a year-long series, the Redefining Flexible Films (RFF) Innovation Workshop. The multifaceted, online collaboration was composed of specialists and practitioners from across the supply chain, including global firms such as Mars and PepsiCo, retailers like Whole Foods, plus manufacturers, scientists, waste managers, soil health experts and other industry professionals.
“We have an opportunity to reimagine materials, and create packaging solutions that perform, yet are harmless to nature. This white paper outlines our collaborative design-thinking process and the shared conclusion of our experts,” said Reyna Bryan, founder and principal at RCD Packaging Innovation. “These industry leaders identified more than 1,500 actionable ideas, and it’s a huge signal shift in moving toward true sustainability and zero-waste.”
According to Bryan, the workshop generated more than 1,000 ideas and launched nine incubation projects, including a crowdfunded R&D platform, biomimicry-inspired materials and soil-centric design solutions. The concepts span geographic boundaries, allowing companies around the globe to draw inspiration to foster their own sustainable packaging journey.
“When it comes to the notion of sustainable packaging, most of the CPG industry thinks of down-gauging and recycling,” Bryan said. “This workshop brought the industry’s thinking to another level, where participants envision that the sustainable packaging solutions of the future will be made from materials that are compatible with nature and inspired by nature.”
She also reviewed some of the top learnings of the collaborative workshop, including the major challenges facing the flexible film area, such as material weight, the easy way they escape collection, and a lack of end-markets for recycled materials. “Future flexible film packaging solutions will be circular and regenerative, and designed to the needs of healthy soil and healthy marine ecosystems,” she offered. “The most difficult technical challenge we focused on was how to create a strong moisture vapor barrier out of mateirals that perform through distribution, but can still be broken down by microbes in a natural environment. We believe we will find our answers through the lens of biomimicry.”
Among the findings covered in the white paper are:
- Overview of flexible films, manufacturing and material management
- R&D priorities
- Industry-wide innovation toward zero-waste flexible film packaging
- Actionable material concepts
In addition to offering the white paper for free download, RCD Packaging Innovation is also looking into 2021 and expanding the platform and process globally. Bryan concluded, “Collaborative innovation across organizations is possible when values are aligned, and this work can be facilitated remotely. RCD will be working in partnership with industry experts, brands, impact investors and the scientific community to move our industry towards a zero-waste future. Everyone is welcome to join us in this important work.”