Sustainability on Display at the Museum of Brands in London

This week, the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising in London unveiled their latest exhibit, Pack The Future, an in-depth look at sustainable packaging. With 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean every year and a swirling vortex of garbage in the Pacific estimated to be the size of Texas, it’s a much-needed primer on what package designers can do to help lessen their environmental footprint.

We spoke with the museum’s Chief Executive Chris Griffin about their new display and some of the innovations that have been made around sustainable packaging.

What prompted you to have a sustainability exhibit at the museum?

Chris Griffin: Sustainability is a core subject for today’s society and one the Museum updates on and presents to audiences regularly. Our newly launched series of displays in partnership with ThePackHub was an opportunity to explore the topic of sustainability through the lens of packaging—something that most of us use every day.

The way objects are packaged through the use of innovative design and engineering holds the potential to have a direct impact on increasing sustainability while minimizing a package's effect on the environment. Our partnership with ThePackHub allows us to explore the very latest technological advances in sustainable packaging that are available to consumers with the aim of stimulating further debate on complex questions surrounding sustainability.

How did you select what would be included in the exhibit?

Chris Griffin: Working closely with ThePackHub, we researched the latest sustainable packs on the global market. We wanted to show different kinds of packaging that are available to consumers right now or soon will be in the future. Packs from familiar high street retailers are shown along with packs from lesser-known sustainable packaging engineers who are teaming up with brands, that way their packs can be sold and used by more consumers.

We believe that the exhibit gives visitors a snapshot of some of the numerous initiatives out there - some may be known by the average consumer already, others will be less familiar. For example, the new Head and Shoulders bottles manufactured by Terracycle is only available in France. Of course, there are so many great initiatives out there which we would have loved to include if there was only more space!

Can you share with us one of the recent initiatives that will be on display?

Chris Griffin: One initiative we are featuring is PaperFoam, a material produced with renewable ingredients that's compostable, biodegradable, lightweight, and recyclable. The Dutch company has attracted several sustainably-minded brands to use their specially engineered material. Kipster uses PaperFoam packs to contain eggs laid on their carbon neutral chicken farm in Holland.

The 2017 Winner of The Dieline Awards, Waterdrop, also uses PaperFoam packs to house their colorful cubes of concentrated flavors.Designed to add vitamins and flavor to water, the Waterdrop boxes are made from 100% biodegradable PaperFoam material.

What do you think packaging designers take away from this exhibit?

Chris Griffin: Designers will learn that consumers expect alternative packaging solutions and that taking risks with design can bring positive results for the environment and the consumer. Even brands can increase their favorability and sales.

Based on what you’ve put together for the exhibit, what do you predict as the future for sustainable packaging design?

Chris Griffin: In response to public opinion, the pace of change in sustainable packaging will continue to increase. As topics receive greater hype and scrutiny, the packaging industry will enthusiastically continue to develop solutions that address all the needs of a pack, with the first priority being to protect the product through distribution to the point of sale and into the consumer’s home. Real progress in sustainability will most likely come through changes in consumer behavior. The consumer has such infinite choice, yet such a limited and uninformed understanding of the refuse system with little incentive to return, refill or recycle. Because the UK has no unified approach with over 800 local waste streams operating their own systems, the economies of scale required to tackle issues in the packaging industry will never be met.