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Product Design & Packaging Design & Packaging, Design<div class="ExternalClass770D88439F674E03A970DA604D1A1290">before-yellow</div>

What We're Doing

​Designing Smart from the Start

An effective approach to preventing and reducing waste from consumer products and packaging is through design. Promoting circular economy principles at the design stage reduces waste throughout a product's lifecycle.

The NZWC works with key players across product design and packaging sectors to identify waste prevention opportunities. To aid designers in rethinking waste, the Council collaboratively identified waste prevention design principles.

These Principles can be applied to new product ideas and redesigns, discussed in the boardroom and the lab. Explore the principles by clicking through the table below.

Pre-use involves all the steps from cradle (the origin of the materials) to the customer's door; manufacturing/production, distribution and sale.
Sourcing resources that are rapidly renewed through natural cycles can reduce dependence on non-renewable materials. This promotes natural production systems that can continue indefinitely (in theory).
It’s important to consider compostability from the beginning. Material chemistry, processing additives, and trace elements (e.g. inks) can affect how well a product or package exceeds standards for compostable certification. These will also affect whether the materials are suitable for another industry’s use (e.g. methane extraction).
Minimize the environmental impact of a product or packaging by reducing the volume and/or weight of materials used. This “dematerialization” can happen both by making the item itself out of less material, and by optimizing the raw material extraction and manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of material used.
Byproducts are the materials created during manufacture that are not used in the final item. Planning the next use of these byproducts by another industry, or internally, can contribute significantly to waste reduction.
Reduce energy use wherever possible. Renewable energy to power extraction and manufacturing reduces reliance on non-renewable sources. Using energy efficient machinery further cuts resource and energy costs.
Reducing weight of a product and its package can considerably reduce energy use during transportation and manufacture; however, reducing the weight should not jeopardize product life span through reduced performance .
A package should protect its contents, and inform and appeal to the consumer without using excess material. Together, the product and package should be strong enough to reach the consumer without damage. The more efficiently it is designed for transport, storage and display, the better it is at reducing waste.
Some manufacturing techniques produce less waste than others. Low waste manufacturing processes consider effluent and byproduct control to limit the spread of waste, minimize materials used (e.g. additive manufacturing) or find uses for by-products (e.g. cascading subtractive).
Transport happens at all stages of the life cycle. Considering relative greenhouse gas emissions from different modes of transportation - rail, ocean, air, road – can be an important step, and an easy one to optimize in the production chain.
Optimizing energy efficiency and encouraging eco-efficient appliances influence how much energy is used once a product or package is in the consumer’s hands.
Consumer preference analysis can determine whether a product or package is actually meeting its intended use; a well-designed product reduces the chance of premature disposal.
Instructions are an opportunity to communicate value to the consumer. If a customer doesn’t fully understand how a product or package works or needs to be maintained, it opens the way for breakage, under-use, and early disposal.
Design to increase product longevity reduces the number and frequency of replacements.
The more prominent, catchy, and clear disposal instructions are, the more likely the consumer will be able to reach the goal of reducing waste after use. Better designs will accommodate regional infrastructure capacity for waste disposal.
If taking the product or package apart is complex, it can limit or prohibit disassembly post-use. Designing with fewer parts and design for intentional disassembly increases re-use, reclamation, and recycling.
Design for direct reuse is more efficient than disassembly or recycling. This means creating a product that can be directly reused at the end of life, without extra processing.
Byproducts, effluent, and even post-use products and packaging can supply another industry’s production line. This is called industrial ecology, or industrial symbiosis, and is arranged apart from consumer/municipal recycling systems.
Designing a product for a specific waste stream (e.g. recycling, composting, methane extraction) is first-stage systems thinking; collaborating with the waste handling industry is the next. Ensuring there is an end market for the product and packaging post use, and that this market is available wherever the item is sold, is integral to optimizing end-of-life.
Designing for recycling is a basic and accessible way to reduce waste after use. The recycling industry collects commonly used materials, processes and sells them into a new system of production. This can be an energy and transport-intensive process, and usually results in downgrading of materials over multiple recycling cycles. Designing for optimal recyclability and up-cycling (recycling to a product of equal or higher value) is a next-level way to approach this principle.
Composting is the recycling of organic materials – biological nutrients to feed rapidly renewable resources. Not all products or packages can or should be designed to be compostable, but some industries are especially suitable for it, such as foodware and food packaging. Designing a compostable product requires careful consideration of materials, certification, and that the conditions required to compost are met in the market area.
Rethink Design

Design Principles

These design principles are key to reducing solid waste throughout the lifecycle. The principles can be categorized into three stages of a complete product lifecycle:

Pre-use: involves all the steps from cradle (the origin of the materials) to the customer's door; manufacturing/production, distribution and sale.

During Use: the goal of creating a product or package is to fill a need. Effective design will minimize waste during use.

Post Use:  the new paradigm of resource recovery prevents and reduces waste by encouraging all materials to re-enter useful life after their first run of production and use.

Design Portfolio

Marketplace Transformations in Canadian Products and Packaging

Building on the NZWC design principles, the NZWC Design Portfolio celebrates Canadian products and packaging that take the entire lifecycle into account during design and are moving towards a circular economy by minimizing waste. From fashion to furniture, businesses are finding cost-savings, reducing environmental impact, and increasing consumer appeal by designing differently. The examples in this portfolio exemplify successful market solutions.

View the NZWC Design Portfolio

Compostable Packaging Resources

Since 2015, the NZWC PDP Working Group has produced extensive research on compostable materials. The work conveys the role of compostable materials in the broader effort to reduce waste in Canada. The series covers a range of topics, including current conditions, barriers, and opportunities for compostable materials to offset particular elements of PDP waste.


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