Mark Constantine, the businessman and environmentalist who, amongst other things, set up the bath and beauty product company Lush, whose products are all delivered to the consumer unwrapped, presented an interesting programme on Channel 4 recently titled Packaging Is Rubbish.
The programme calls for a consumer campaign against the excessive packaging that covers, protects and decorates almost everything that we buy. Constantine raised some interesting points, highlighting that 98% of manufacturers and retailers need to do more to reduce excessive packaging waste and that often, the packaging costs three times as much as the product it is protecting/decorating. New trends in consumer research are beginning to indicate people are starting to become concerned as to the amount of un-recyclable rubbish they throw away each year, yet whilst there are some companies making an effort to reduce packaging, we are seeing a packaging explosion - pre-sliced, plastic wrapped apples to individual ketchup sachets, were two highlighted on the programme
The programme was primarily an appeal to the mass consumer market - the general public, and although it made me think as a consumer how guilty I was of falling for seductive packaging, it also made me question the role of the designer. Although the programme didn't mention the designer of the packaging directly, it is clear that if designers were made more aware of the materials and methods of production they employed, a lot could be done to reduce the impact of our packaging-obsessed culture. It shouldn't been seen as a restriction, but rather a creative problem whereby packaging designers should begin to explore new ways of packaging products that still protect, attract attention and create desire but that don't impact our planet in such a negative way.
You should still be able to catch the programme online at Channel 4 and it would be interesting to hear peoples thoughts on these issues as producing recyclable design may be something we will engage in during our career.