Design Insights for Plastic Packaging

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans, and that is without the possibility of giants like China and India increasing their plastic usage. Even plastic which claims to be biodegradable can take years to decompose – yet today’s modern households are widely dependent on plastic.

How Do We Combat the Environmental Impact of Plastic?

Entirely banning plastic simply isn’t feasible, because it would involve some unmanageable trade-offs. Even reducing plastic packaging in favor of paper comes with an unacceptably high deforestation cost that puts unhealthy demands on our natural resources.1 These are challenging issues for engineers, manufacturers, and those working in the industry, with many organizations in the sector considering a circular economy approach—designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.1

Here are a few of the most popular design improvement recommendations to contribute to a circular economy and reduce packaging waste:2

  1. Change to Film That Qualifies for the Store Drop-Off Label - For example, flexible packaging is not widely accepted in curbside programs, but is accepted through Store Drop-Off programs because through this collection method, materials will be sent to a material recovery facility that has the infrastructure to reclaim these materials without hindrance to mechanical operations, like jams and downtime.
  2. Change to Mono-Material from Multi-Material - Transitioning your packaging to one material type alleviates the need for additional separation and sorting by the consumer. This avoids good faith recycling and makes it easier for a consumer to confidently discard a package properly.
  3. Ensure Label Substrate, Label Adhesive, and Label Ink Meet Criteria for Recycling - If your packaging program includes PET, PE, or PP containers that require additional labeling, it is important to follow the guidelines set forth in the APR Design® Guide. Consumers often do not think of the label as having different recyclability properties as the primary container and don't know to navigate this difference.
  4. Change to a Widely Recyclable Material - Avoid materials that cannot be easily recycled through standard recovery systems to minimize

The first recommendation—change to a film that qualifies for the Store Drop-Off Label—is the most popular design recommendation across all materials. The Store Drop-off Label is the only recycling option for flexible packaging at scale, but is only available for polyethylene packaging. Unfortunately, the marketplace is experiencing an unprecedented explosion in non-recyclable flexible packaging making this solution under-utilized.

Fox Packaging manufactures a variety of flexible packaging options that are 100% recyclable and can be returned to a Store Drop-off location.  To learn more about our products or how we approach sustainable packaging design, email


1 The Case for Renewable Plastics. Phoebe McMellon. EHS Today.

2 Definition of Sustainable Packaging. Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of GreenBlue. Version 2.0. Revised August 2011.

Topics: Display-ready packaging, sustainability, flexible packaging, produce packaging, fox packaging, recycling, recylable, sustainable, Plastic Packaging