Ecodesign and ecological communication of packaging

20% of the Earth’s inhabitants benefit from 80% of the planet’s resources1, but this data alone shows the unsustainability of the consumption system in which we are immersed, without taking into account the evidence of environmental impacts and social events that have occurred in recent decades.

More and more consumers are aware of this fact, and thus of the individual and joint responsibility they have when purchasing products. Price is no longer the main purchase criterion in favor of others, such as environmental and social criteria according to which a product or service is designed and manufactured.

Companies aware of this situation on the market launch strong green marketing campaigns with their products, and this information is often questionable. This fact is covered by the term greenwashing. Greenwashing refers to the communication that a company maintains with its customers regarding the environmental benefits of its products, even though they do not actually provide any significant environmental benefits.

A study by Canadian consulting firm TerraChoice2 found that the number of products with green claims increased by 73% from 2009 to 2010. Of the products identified, nearly 95% showed what are known as the “sins” of greenwashing. Some of these “sins” relate to communicating irrelevant or non-existent environmental aspects of a product, lacking evidence to support an environmental claim, or using false labels.

However, companies that actually design and manufacture their products according to ecological criteria have various tools that allow them to communicate to consumers in a clear and transparent way their environmental advantages and the added value this represents for the product. These tools are called eco-labels or eco-labels.

There are currently three ecological labeling systems, regulated by the following standards:
– UNE-EN ISO 14024. Ecological labels and ecological declarations. Type I ecolabelling. General principles and procedures.
– UNE-EN ISO 14021. Ecological labels and ecological declarations. Self-declarations on environmental protection (type II ecological labeling)
– UNE-EN ISO 14025. Ecological labels and declarations. Declarations on environmental protection type III. Principles and procedures.

This regulation stimulates the demand for products with a lower environmental impact by offering relevant environmental information, which meets the consumer’s need for reliable information. Among them are standardized ecological self-declarations, whose methodology is recommended to be followed in the process of developing this type of eco-labeling (type II labeling), with the aim of combating misleading product advertising.

Environmental improvements communicated through these systems can often be achieved by developing products according to an ecological design methodology. Eco-design or ecological design is defined as “the integration of ecological aspects into the design of a product in order to improve its environmental performance during its life cycle3”.

Ecologically designed products are innovative, with a better impact on the environment and can represent a quality equal to or better than their equivalents on the market. For this reason, the use of Ekodesign is increasingly important for companies, as it offers clear advantages such as improving positioning in relation to the competition, reducing costs or improving the image of the company and the product.

Concretely in the design of containers and packaging, plastic materials are presented as an option to be highlighted both for their technical characteristics and simplicity of design and transformation, as well as for providing important environmental advantages such as, for example, the possibility of introducing recycled material, weight reduction or the possibility recycling at the end of the product’s life.

AIMPLAS has developed a series of guides that aim to shed light on aspects of Ecodesign in plastics, helping the growth of the plastics sector and making it more competitive. So far, guides have been published in this series:

– Environmental design guide for the plastics sector. (ISBN: 978-84-6137765-7)
– Environmental Design Guide for the Plastics Sector: Containers and Packaging. (ISBN: 978-84-614-5982-7)
– Environmental Design Guide for the Plastics Sector: Electrical-Electronic. (ISBN: 978-84-614-5788-5)
– Environmental Design Guide for the Plastics Sector: Urban Furniture. (ISBN: 978-84-615-5086-9)

This information helps companies that want to design their products according to ecological criteria and carry out the correct environmental communication of their products.

IPADE Foundation, CECU, Guide to Responsible Consumption and the Environment (online, consultation date 03/08/2012). Available in
2 TerraChoice. Greenwashing Report 2010 (online, accessed 7/27/2012). Available in
3 Eva Verdejo, Gemma Botica “Ecodesign Guide for the Plastics Sector: Containers and Packaging” AIMPLAS 2010. ISBN: 978-84-614-5982-7

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