For a long time, plastic was a crucial element in packaging design and in product presentation. It was also the essence of the products that were bought and sold. The plastic was and is a very cheap material, durable and, at first sight, profitable. Since it appeared after the Second World War and was incorporated into the daily life of the public, its presence has not stopped increasing, so much that the current situation of plastic has already reached very worrying levels. Too much plastic has been produced and the throwaway concept has been abused.
Because, however resistant, cheap and malleable plastic is, the material also has a disturbing negative side. Its very nature, and what allows it to be so resistant, makes it very difficult to degrade. Plastic takes too long to biodegrade, which makes it a waste difficult to manage. In the last decades, plastic has become a threatening problem for the environment as it polluted land and oceans and endangered the existence of many species.
All this made societies every time more aware of the problems plastics bring. People now do not only demand much less plastic-loaded products (what has lead to, for example, that one of the emerging trends in packaging design is to remove plastic) but also are much more responsible with the use they give to existing plastic. The public wants more recycling and a greater reuse of materials.
New technologies and plastic sorting
New technologies help in this field and allow meeting the expectations of consumers. Solutions such as the Ecopack optical sorter make the sorting of containers and other materials in waste management much simpler, also simplifying the subsequent work.
In fact, the work of selecting plastics is, or at least that is what a study by the European Association of Plastic Transformers says, to improve not only recycled materials but also the achieved results. 76% of plastic processors believe that improving the way in which plastic collection is managed would lead to better recycled materials. 29% believe that it would lead to a better design.
Ecodesign and the new life of plastics
Design trends allow that, once these materials are available and the recycling process has begun to give them a new life, these plastics can be used again in the most optimal way.
The key element in ecodesign is to work with respectful criteria with the environment. When designing products, packaging or services, ecodesign ensures that the result has the least possible impact on the environment and that it can be reinvented once its useful lifecycle ends.
In the case of plastics, the ecodesign work must be done using some basic rules. One should not abuse of plastic, which means using only the indispensable and using materials that are easily recyclable or that come from recycled plastic instead.
In addition, social pressure on large multinational companies and the fact that different administrations are implementing laws against plastic are also causing companies to bet much more for ecodesign and for reducing the use of plastic materials. The examples are varied and cover the most diverse actions. From supermarkets, such as Lidl or Mercadona, which are changing their plastic bags for sturdy paper bags to companies that try to get their costumers to bring their own containers from home. Such is the case with the Starbucks’ mugs or the Carrefour campaign trying for you to bring your own Tupperware to the store.