We recently attended the PDM Plastics event at the Telford International Centre, where our Creative Director Andy Ditchburn was invited to speak about Social Media Marketing.
A section of the conference space was dedicated to plastic recycling. Whilst exploring this section and listening to other speakers, we leant a lot more about the importance of selecting and specifying plastics for packaging.
Conference speakers and attendees were encouraging designers to understand the recycling process before choosing material for use in packaging. They were keen to emphasise that recycling is a ‘circular’ process and not a ‘linear’ one. We were strongly encouraged to design for ‘recycling’ not just for ‘disposal’.
In recent years designers have been encouraged to select packing methods that don’t use an excessive amount of material. We’ve also been encouraged to look at more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic.
With characteristics including lightweight, resealable, shatter-resistant and recyclable, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a popular choice for packaging. PET is commonly used to package a range of products including drinks, bakery, fish, meet, fruit, frozen foods as well as cosmetics and household cleaner.
Black PET is currently frequently used by leading supermarkets and food producers to package ‘premium’ ranges of product. In modern society, black communicates more of a luxury feel than white or transparent.
We learnt that recovering and recycling black PET containers can be a difficult challenge for recyclers. The problems arise when ‘sorting’ the containers as optical sorting equipment can’t distinguish between black or transparent PET. This means that sorting has to be done by hand, which is obviously costly and time consuming.
The major supermarkets are currently been encouraged to move away from black PET and explore other alternatives for packing premium ranges.
The overall message from the conference was that plastics used in packaging should be understood and managed, not completely banned.