Design packaging to reduce environmental impacts

How to make your product packaging effective


You must always balance reducing the amount of packaging, changing the materials it is made out of, or enabling it to be reused or recycled, with the need to fulfil a number of key requirements.

Tips for effective product packaging

The first requirement of any packaging is that it meets the needs of the goods it has to carry.

You should:

  • ensure that the contents are delivered to the consumer or business user in good condition, whatever stresses it undergoes during distribution and storage
  • protect the contents from hazards such as vibration, moisture, heat, odours, light penetration, micro-organisms or pest infestation
  • make it easy to open (but difficult to open accidentally) and theft resistant
  • allow liquids to pour without spillage
  • make it as easy as possible to carry
  • make it attractive enough to encourage people to buy the product

Considering product design at the same time as packaging design can help you to keep packaging to a minimum and could offer opportunities for the packaging to be used within the product once it gets to the consumer - see ecodesign for goods and services.

Environmentally friendly packaging tips

If you are designing or redesigning packaging to reduce environmental impacts, you should consider a number of factors including:

  • how you can reduce packaging of luxury items while maintaining the product's market value
  • what methods you can build into new packaging to ensure the product is tamperproof
  • how you can retain sufficient space to carry product information and disposal instructions
  • how you can protect the product against damage
  • how you can ensure efficient handling and distribution of the product
  • any specific needs that a product may need, particularly within the food industry

Packaging must also comply with a number of legal requirements. You should make sure you are aware of these requirements when redesigning any packaging. For more information, see packaging and packaging waste management.

Avoiding packaging wastage

Packaging can be designed to give the product full protection, but often this is not the best environmental option. Assess your packaging to see if there is an acceptable level of wastage and that you are not over or under-packaging your products.

The levels of acceptable wastage your business sets will depend on a number of factors including:

  • value of the product
  • potential of the product to cause injury or damage
  • needs of retailers who may reject an entire shipment if one unit is damaged
  • expectations of end customers regarding the packaging of products they buy