You spend time and energy developing an innovative new product from drafting it on paper to manufacture. However, the design does not stop there because you have to think of packing and shipping your amazing new product. Packaging can be just as important at the product inside. And as engineers, designers, and manufacturers, do we also have an environmental responsibility to our consumers? You hear the term ‘sustainability’ used and it is not just a trend or a catch phrase anymore. But, being “green” doesn’t come cheap.
Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, FL with the help of E6PR decided to do something about the packaging of their beer cans. They created a 6-pack beer ring made of wheat and barley that can feed marine life instead of becoming tangled up in the plastic-style rings. If more breweries were to adopt this practice then they could help to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans along with costs of manufacturing such packaging. We have to come up with more sustainable solutions to environmental problems. Single-use plastics have seen a ban in one-way or another but much more needs to be done.
Marine debris can have a huge impact on wildlife in many ways: entanglement and ghost fishing, ingestion, and non-native species. There are Five(5) “Garbage Patches” in the ocean where the whirlpool affect of the ocean’s currents collects litter, fishing gear and other debris. The most famous gyre being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, may never fully go away. It is mostly made up of plastic pieces smaller than 5mm in size that get mixed and spread about in such remote locations that removal can be difficult. If we had more alternatives to single-use plastics, then could focus on prevention.
Recycling is in crisis. Gone are the days that you can throw a plastic water bottle in a blue bin and feel good that you are helping save the Earth. This crisis circles around the fact that we can no longer export our recycling to China. It banned 24 types of scrap and implemented stricter regulation making it nearly impossible to meet. India no longer purchases our plastic waste either so much of it can end up in landfills. Reusing items can be an option but you have to be creative. A plastic bottle can never be a plastic bottle again but there are many ways to reuse them in your household and here are 60 examples, according to FOSH. Do you want all that plastic in your life? Reducing the amount of waste can be very helpful but so can reducing the type of waste. Choosing alternative materials like glass or paperboard cartons can be even more beneficial.
While for many, this is mostly an individual choice. Our government has set standards but there is always room for improvement. So many companies are taking it upon themselves to come up with solutions where they see problems. Problem: Single-use Plastic Water Bottles. Solution: Boxed Water uses paper from sustainable forests to offset their carbon footprint. Problem: Plastic straws are the worst! They are too lightweight to be properly processed even if you do recycle them. Solution: Welcome to the metal and glass straw product development movement.
Sustainability was another take-away from NeoCon19 held at theMart this past June in Chicago. It is a welcome movement that sets brand apart, like furniture maker Sossego, who uses sustainable Brazilian wood or Tarkett’s Lino flooring that is the same sustainable recipe they have used for more than 120 years and is 100% recyclable. However, with all this wonderful product that is developed, we cannot leave out the packaging and shipping aspect. The amount of materials and the environmental impact that it can cause is something to be considered as much as the details of the product itself. As amazing as Amazon is, it has its faults when it comes to serving up packages quick, fast and in a hurry. You may not be paying for shipping but there are environmental costs. It is a constant struggle for companies to simultaneously cater to the convenience of items that consumers crave and still do right by Mother Nature.
Knowledge is Power
Educate yourself. What biodegradable and plastic alternatives are available? What production processes minimize waste? Having more diverse knowledge could be beneficial to your career development, in addition to, seeking continuing education and training, joining professional networking groups, and improving inter-departmental communication skills. That communication can be verbal but engineers and designers need to be able to speak through their respective 3D CAD software. At Design Engine, we help companies and individuals to significantly increase their design and engineering capabilities through innovative and comprehensive training challenges. We simply help designers and engineers work smarter, not harder.