When I was in elementary school my grandfather would sit in the chair closest to the Christmas tree with a few black trash bags. He leaned forward, watching eagerly, as each child opened their respective gifts from aunts and uncles. Before the wrapping paper touched the dark green carpet, he would swoop in and quickly stuff the torn paper into the trash bag. It looked as though he was a gray feathered bird, urgently gathering material to build a nest. By the time we finished opening gifts the living room was tidy. With the exception of a stray shred of paper under a chair or accent table.
I remember opening these gifts and feeling so excited as I read the descriptions on side of the toy boxes of my new found treasures. The front of the package featured “hero shots” of the item. The box sides usually described a special feature, a novelty, or something unique about that item. The back of the package had the best information about how to play with the toy or what other complimentary items would produce the most fun once the package was opened. In those days, toy packagings were not littered with safety warnings and environmental notifications. We were having too much fun to be concerned with things like that.
Oh, how times have changed.
As an adult, I am much more informed about the messages on toy packaging. As well as the sheer volume of waste produced. The front of the box is, in fact, a billboard advertising the product. Why are the boxes so large when they contain such a small amount of volume of toys? Answer: the bigger the marketing message, the more opportunity you have to persuade a parent to buy it. Of course, this is also a contributor to our growing production of cardboard and plastic waste. Statistics show that Americans discard 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year when compared with other times of the year. That is a huge amount of wrapping paper, boxes, and ribbon.
If you are in the CPG business or the marketing department of your company, you are faced with a challenge:
How do you sell your product in such a competitive marketplace while at the same time being socially responsible with regard to how much waste is produced after your product is consumed?
Here are a few ideas:
- Select more sustainable materials made of post-consumer waste and plant-based materials.
- Creatively design packages that use less corrugated material but capture a similar surface area for marketing messages.
- Consider alternative packaging methods like pouches, adhesive labels directly on the product, mesh bags or shelf ready displays.
- Produce a package that can be reused. Such as a bag, a basket, a container that customers can keep and continue to be reminded of your brand.
Unlike the banana, most products do not come in their own naturally biodegradable (and beautiful) packaging. So we have to develop the packaging ourselves. Most things need to be contained, protected, explained and merchandised. We may never be able to eliminate the use of packaging for many products. However, we can be diligent as we endeavor to make it easier for the end users of our products to reduce, reuse and recycle. Perhaps, we can reduce the number trash bags filled by grandparents across America this year.
Director of Sales and Operations, Bufkor Inc.