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Changing the System: Anti-Packaging

Seaweed-based edible Ooho sachets / Source: Notpla Instagram Account (@notpla)
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Yasmin Ahmed

Packaging fails have led to an entirely new category of memes. The backlash over excessive packaging is unforgiving, with consumers frequently flocking to social media to name and shame culprits, mocking poor product-to-packaging ratios. Public sentiment is indignant and so it should be. This throwaway culture cannot continue – and it doesn’t need to. 

Packaging has become a product in its own right – facilitating the transportation, storage, distribution, preservation, and marketing of an array of food, beverage, beauty, and other consumer goods. But as packaging production soars year-on-year across the world, so too does waste, placing an unprecedented burden on the environment. Almost 80 million tonnes of packaging waste was generated by the EU in 2020, and a third of all municipal solid waste in the US comprises packing containers, amounting to 82.2 million tonnes in 2018. 

But an anti-packaging movement is burgeoning, looking to tackle the issue of needless waste head-on. The trend encompasses a range of strategies: stripping away unnecessary packaging elements, introducing standardised containers, and switching to concentrated and waterless formulas to go light on packaging or eliminate it entirely. The goal: to minimise post-consumer waste and spark a wave of disruptive designs that inspire cultural and behavioural shifts. Consumers want it, legislators are enforcing it, and the environment needs it. As for brands, the crisis of waste presents an invaluable opportunity to recalibrate and be on the forefront of the anti-packaging movement, earning new loyalties and enriching their value proposition. Here, we take a deep dive into the problem, and how the anti-packaging movement is building momentum across industries.


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