The Packaging Conundrum

As designers and producers of packaging, we have a responsibility to promote more sustainable methods at the very beginning of the packaging chain, which is why we do our best to research and keep up-to-date on the latest information and technology in this sector. This is what we’ve discovered…

It can get very confusing, and there are a lot of conflicting opinions and advice, but ultimately, every form of packaging has a cost to the earth. Anti-intuitively, the pressure from movements like the Extinction Rebellion and David Attenborough’s call to action, while successful publicity for climate change, have resulted in panic & green-washing methods of consumption. It’s more effective to change our behaviour as consumers, rather than shifting the problems created by plastics.

The most damaging part of the process is often the original production of packaging. Simply switching from plastic bags to paper bags, or PET plastic to Plant-Based Plastics isn’t necessarily helping - as these processes still involve the farming of natural resources and the energy required to make them, pack them & ship them (often around the world), then if mis-identified, they can contaminate our recycling. The language used can also be misleading, for example ‘biodegradable’ can mean anything from 1 year to 1000+ years whereas ‘compostable’ means it will actually break down with your organic waste. The most efficient & simple response is to close the loop - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means giving packaging a life after use wherever possible. Some manufactures are making steps in the right direction with the emergence of ‘PCR’ or Post Consumer Recycling - This is anything from milk bottles to paper waste from your home that’s been re-formed into new packaging, and can be recycled again & again. 

In essence, we should be avoiding buying into gimmicks & any single-use packaging, and keeping as much waste as we can out of landfill. As we live in a global economy, we have to accept there’s no instant solution, but it’s important to remember that it’s far better that we have everyone recycling a little, than a few people recycling perfectly.

When we designed ExLibris, we considered our footprint. The distilling process uses a lot of energy, that while we’re not able to offset at the moment, we try not to add to it. For our bottles, we use 100% PCR paper labels and cartons, natural corks and wax to seal. Our bottles are reusable and recyclable, their flat sides also mean less space is wasted in transportation. We wrap the bottles in tissue paper from industrial printing waste, and they’re posted in cardboard boxes. We don’t add anything unnecessary and everything we use is either recycled or recyclable and sourced from the UK where possible.

References & Further reading:

‘Why Shrink Wrap a cucumber’ Laurel Miller & Stephen Aldridge. Laurence King publishing 2012.

‘Residual Recycling and Composting Collection Policy’ - (see your local council’s website for details):

*DEFRA ‘ consultation on consistency in household and business recycling collections in England’:

New Scientist, Issue 3237, 6th July 2019. Article: ‘Zero Waste Unwrapped’ by Leah Crane /