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  • Writer's picturea.m. associates

A Convenient Truth

The reason convenience culture works is that… well the clue is in the name. The same can be said of recycling, which is to a large extent what makes it so popular. Designers and manufacturers can go further, though.

For example, a few years ago we worked on a carton for the BT Home Hub router, which had been redesigned specifically to fit through a standard letter-box. This was a great starting point, as it was not only convenient, meaning the customer was more likely to receive it at the first go without having to wait in or drive to a collection hub, but it also already had environmental savings built-in by avoiding the need for an unnecessary journey. Additionally the rigour of designing for a 38mm slot with a 1 metre deadfall the other side was quite liberating, as everyone involved was open to a minimal approach. For the customer, convenience and engagement trumped the perceived go-to solution of a full colour laminated pack protected by an outer transit carton. Click here to see the customer journey.

People seem to be more amenable to less packaging, even for premium products. They are used to stuff being home-delivered (especially since Covid-19), so a printed carton is not as much of a hook to draw the customer in, more a barrier between the postal pack and the thing they wanted in the first place. Customer internal dialogue: ‘Can I re-use this fancy carton for posting something else? Nah, too flimsy. Straight into the recycling it is then’.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Alternatively, if something is annoying, it clearly needs to be done another way.

Increasingly we, as a company, want to use our experience to be proactive in shaping how packaging is done rather than simply reacting to a menu of options; recycle, compost, lightweight, etc. At the very least we would like to have a bigger menu, which might include no packaging at all, just a different way of getting a product safely into the hands of the customer. It may mean trying to change how packaging is sold, or breaking down the individual functions of packaging to see what can be taken away (protection, information, hygiene, marketing, logistics, presentation, handling, etc.).

We are able to recycle more and more packaging, but just because we can doesn't mean we should. Recycling is not benign, and over-packaging is still over-packaging even if the elements are recyclable. Practical alternatives to recycling need to be developed, yet we are barely scratching the surface of Re-use and Compostability, and a lot of what we are doing is not fit for purpose or is so niche as to be irrelevant.

People want to care for the environment and many are prepared to make sacrifices to do this with some encouragement, but engagement is not enough for most; convenience is the key.

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