Design for Sustainable Packaging: Source Reduction

Source reduction is a simple yet effective strategy that is both eco-friendly and fiscally responsible. Following “lean design” principles compels the designer to minimize material usage in packages and reconsider disposable containers designed for one-time use. Source reduction lessens the environmental impact of your package by:

  • Conserving resources
  • Saving energy spent on manufacturing & transportation
  • Producing less pollution
  • Creating less waste
  • Reducing Greenhouse gases
  • Encouraging the design of durable, reusable packaging


Package designers can reduce or even eliminate material usage in a number of ways.  For example: Consider the minimal number of materials, additives or auxiliaries that make up the package.  Scrutinize all aspects of the package to determine if it contains unneeded components or materials; and look for ways to reduce its weight and/or size. Optimize primary packaging and determine if these changes warrant reducing or eliminating secondary or transportation packaging

Single-Use Disposable Items

Among the worst contributors to our waste crisis are single-use disposable (SUDs) items.  SUD packaging includes non-recyclable packaging designed for one time use. Plastic bags and wrappers, paper/plastic cups, toothpaste tubes, Styrofoam containers, water bottles, soda bottles and so on are examples of single-use disposable items. Many of these items are made of plastic and other materials developed to last indefinitely.  Even though the majority of plastic manufactured is recyclable, 90% of it ends up in landfills.


In 2013 Mondelez International launched an initiative to reduce 50 million lbs. of packaging by the end of 2015. In just the first year of the campaign the company eliminated 89 million lbs. of packaging — nearly doubling its original target.  Here are some methods that Mondelez employed:

  • Eliminating shipping boxes for “picnic bars” sold in Russia reduced packaging by 3.5 million pounds each year.
  • Redesigning the Tang display for Latin America better optimized paperboard and cardboard consumption. This saved nearly 1 million pounds of material.
  • Replacing the Oreo cookie tray with a film wrap in the China market reduced packaging by 650,000 pounds a year.


This has been a preview of Trayak’s “Design Strategies for Sustainable Packaging” white-paper. Keep an eye out for the complete guide soon…

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