The Foundation for Innovative packaging and Sustainability (FIPS) organized a two-day International Conference in September in New Delhi. The ‘Responsible Packaging’ theme brought the design community and other stakeholders of the packaging industry together for the discussion on design for sustainable packaging.
The Design Recommendations for Responsible Packaging discussion started with Dr Sumer Singh, associate professor, department of design, IIT Delhi, who shed light on how research can help in responsible packaging. He spoke about his research on developing frameworks to guide decision-making on what kind of package is adaptable to specific use cases.
Itu Chaudhuri, the founder of ICD Design, noted, “The framework is extremely important, and the main challenge is how do we respond to the problem of ecology and packaging at two levels – the level of government and regulations, and secondly what can we do at an individual level packaging designers. Designers must take this issue seriously [by acquiring the relevant technical knowledge] and take leadership to become ecological thinkers. Until or unless we don’t become more literate about packaging or it doesn’t get started being taught in schools and colleges, the situation won’t get better. It has to start with education if there is a framework at a local level.”
Many packaging designers, such as Chaudhuri, are keen that their packaging design activity transcends their roles as mere creators of surface graphics. As he noted, as the discipline itself grows as a sustainable profession, the technical and specialist issues of materials, of the pack’s behavior in the supply chain as it moves to filling and sealing, logistics, retail, consumer use, and storage, and then waste collection, sorting, and recycling will have to formalized and learned. Unfortunately, the packaging industry is somewhat dilatory in creating and documenting its waste streams for recycling because it is still deciding who will pay for what.
Deepak Manchanda explained how the team came up with the idea of responsible packaging. He said that initially, it was difficult for the team members of FIPS to understand and define responsible packaging. The term reusability for responsible packaging doesn’t mean simply reusing your bottle in the kitchen many times without recycling it properly. When the material goes back to its source and is recycled – this is actual reusability. “Responsibility should be for the entire ecosystem, it is not just a transaction between designer and client or between client and converter, but a consumer should also think about their responsibility of how to dispose of the package. We need to check with the package system going back to the source and being recycled there.”
Sudhir Sharma, the founder of Indi Design, concluded the panel discussion by saying the core values of a business must be reflected in taking responsibility for the sustainability and growth of any product. He said, “Designers are not the responsible body for the packaging, they even don’t know enough about it. People who check for the viability of a business are more responsible for it or an expert who can advise better for the manufacturing part.”