Category Archive: smart design for recycling

Smart Packaging Design for recycling plastic


Most consumers care about the environment. It is now our job to help the consumer achieve their goals of recycling packaging through sustainable design and messaging.

Recycling presents exciting challenges for designers to innovate and constantly challenge the boundaries between functional, aesthetic and environmentally conscious design. Packaging design with recycling in mind needs to meet the needs of all stakeholders in the supply chain.

Raising awareness:

People care about the environment and want to recycle but raised awareness does not teach the consumer how to recycle. Litter is a people problem. There is a gap between technology and people’s habits. We can improve recycling efforts with smart packaging design that facilitates recycling and makes recycling easier for the consumer!

There’s no getting around it, We have a “need for plastics”:

We need to see what we would lose if we truly eliminated plastics. There would be no computers, phones, TVs, no crucial PPE or gloves at hospitals. Even the wires that bring electricity to our homes are coated with protective plastic. Plastics are a significant part of our life and world and yet they make up less than 1% of the materials we use based on weight and waste. Because of their high popularity, usage, and unfortunate littering by some, plastic bottles are a high-profile villain in the packaging world. In reality they are considered greener than aluminum and glass when evaluating the complete product lifecycle. It may surprise you to know that aluminum and glass emit 4x CO2, greenhouse gas emissions and create 4x the amount of waste in weight* (Page 19, The Plastics Paradox by Dr. Chris DeArmitt).

Packaging is everywhere:

Packaging needs to contain and carry information about the product.

Contain the product to:
• Protect the product
• To display the product
• To create a positive product experience when holding the package in your hands

Packaging carries information about the product:
• Directions / Instructions including how to recycle
• Product ingredients
• Usage
• Storage
• Nutrition
• Retail Branding
• Bar code information for efficient check out

Now we need to go one step further and help the environment by designing for the end use of packaging . Easy separation of materials makes a package simple to recycle.

Design with sustainability in mind:
A sustainable packaging design considers the resource consumption and its impact on the environment, as well as it’s final recycling or disposal.. PET plastic is a much greener resource to recycle than aluminum or glass. Recycling plastic saves material, saves energy, and reduces waste. For example, it has been estimated that recycled plastic requires only a tenth as much energy to make as virgin plastic. That means less carbon dioxide emissions in addition to the energy saving (usually a combination of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear)* (Page 46, The Plastics Paradox by Dr. Chris DeArmitt)



Sustainable packaging should be designed to:
• Use minimum number of resources, for example, custom designed boxes
• Maximize recovery of material, such as “smart packaging designs” that separate easily for recycling
• Be made from materials that have already been recycled, like 100% PCR PET

Design with recycling in mind:
To divert packaging from landfills a package should be designed with an end-of-life solution for the product. PET bottles can be recycled infinitely. So, to maximize recovery of material “smart packaging designs” should separate materials easily for recycling.

“Smart Packaging Design Window Box from PTP”

This eco-smart design takes the window box to the next level of Smart Packaging Design for Recycling. The package can be easily separated by the consumer for recycling. This window is designed to slide in and out without gluing, making separation easy for the consumer. Mixed packaging often ends up in landfills because the components cannot be separated easily. The clear plastic window is made from 100% Post-Consumer Recycled PET (recycled water bottles) and can be recycled over and over again. This eco-friendly design requires the separate window to be slid into place. Once the box is erected, the window stays in place perfectly – without glue!
Most consumers care about the environment. It is now our job to help the consumer achieve their goals through design and messaging. For the window, Printex Transparent Packaging offers their Eco-PET Series made from your choice of 25%, 50% and 100% Post-Consumer Recycled PET.

“Smart Packaging Design Wine Twin Pack from PTP”

Another example of “smart packaging design for recycling plastic” is this Eco-PET 100 Wine Twin Pack. The Twin Pack is a clear recycled PET gusset top box that allows you to see the set of 2 different wine bottles. The eco-friendly design showcases the product and has a separate printed graphics card insert that slides in and pops open easily, for maximum branding impact. The wonderful packaging development here is the ability to produce clear PET packaging and still comply with companies’ sustainability goals while making it easy for the consumer to separate and recycle the packaging. PET can be recycled multiple times to maintain a closed loop system. Easy separation of materials makes it simple to recycle. Reprocessing existing plastics uses less energy and fossil fuels. This product allows companies to continue to utilize the benefits of clear packaging while meeting their sustainability goals. Printex Transparent Packaging is always ready to work with companies that would like to offer smart packaging designs to help their consumers contribute to the recycling loop.

“Smart Packaging Design Toothpaste Tube from Colgate”

Colgate’s designers have spent more than five years redesigning the brand’s toothpaste tubes so they can be recycled in curbside bins. the key was using a single material so they could be easily recycled. The new design layers different grades of HDPE on top of each other, which allows a tube that is more squeezable. They replaced the inner aluminum barrier with a plastic that’s compatible with HDPE recycling (the new tube is classified as #2 plastic). The cap is made from a polypropylene (or #5 plastic). In most cases, customers will be able to throw the tube and the cap into the recycling bin. But local recycling rules sometimes vary, and some recyclers prefer that consumers remove the cap before placing both the tube and the cap in the bin. Colgate says there will inevitably be toothpaste residue left in the tube, but consumers don’t need to bother cleaning it out before recycling; since toothpaste is water soluble, it will get washed out during the cleaning process at the recycling plant.*

Packaging is everywhere, with smart packaging design we can make it easier for the consumer to recycle.