“Eco-design isn’t about going on hunger strike, it’s about putting the right ingredients in the right doses and in the right places”.


Designer and eco-design consultant Fabrice Peltier talks to ALL4PACK EMBALLAGE PARIS about the phenomenon of eco-design, a theme that will be at the heart of the next edition of the international trade show dedicated to the packaging and intralogistics industry.

What do you consider to be the ‘wrong ideas’ when it comes to eco-design?
For me, they are those that don’t take into account “impact transfers”. In other words, marketers will often only eco-design the primary packaging, without assessing the entire packaging system, across the entire value chain or life cycle. Whether it’s a bottle, a cardboard box or a plastic bottle, this primary packaging is never distributed on its own. It arrives in a packaging system, sometimes with secondary packaging, sometimes with delivery packaging, and always on a pallet, which is itself protected. It’s all this that we need to look at. For example, what’s the point of lightening packaging too much if you end up having to add a box or heavier secondary packaging and put less of it on the pallets? There’s no point in eco-designing packaging that will have a negative impact on logistics or even product protection. Eco-design isn’t about going on hunger strike, it’s about eating well, i.e. putting the right ingredients in the right dose and in the right place!

Is circularity a universal response to the challenge of eco-design?
In the ‘world’ of the circular economy or recycling, we often hear Lavoisier’s famous phrase “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. Yes, that’s true, except that not everything is transformed into what it was initially… The circularity of materials is not the alpha and omega of eco-design. When we use rPET, for example, to make toothbrushes, it may be good because we are incorporating recycled material into the toothbrush, except that the toothbrush at the end of its life is not recycled waste. In my view, circularity should not be an excuse to produce more in any old way. Other environmental impacts need to be taken into account: on water, biodiversity, CO2, etc.
Of the “3 Rs” (n.d.r.: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), the one we really need to focus on, in my opinion, is a fourth “R”, that of “Give up”. I don’t mean giving up packaging, because it’s virtually impossible to do without it, and products don’t move around with wings in cotton clouds. But we can do away with useless and futile functionalities and move towards greater frugality. And, above all, we need to move away from systematic single use, when it is neither necessary nor essential, and towards reuse. Because the real challenge of eco-design is to reduce waste, and circularity, once again, must not be used as an excuse to produce more and more waste on the grounds that it is ‘circular’.

ALL4PACK EMBALLAGE PARIS will take place from 4 to 7 November, under the slogan “Innovation never stops”. What are your thoughts on the show’s positioning?
As far as the slogan is concerned, “Innovation never stops” is the very essence of innovation: each innovation drives out the previous one. It never stops. As for the rest, I think the show has a lot going for it. France is a packaging country. And, without getting carried away, our country continues to play a key role in the world of packaging, particularly when it comes to innovation. For all these reasons, the positioning seems quite logical to me. And finally, that’s also what a show is for, perhaps even more than anything else: to see what’s new, what’s next. There are still a lot of exhibitors who wait until the show opens to unveil their innovations. So, of course, a lot of people will tell you “we don’t need this any more because there’s the Internet”. But that’s not true! What’s interesting about a trade show is that you can ask questions, get involved in a discussion and exchange ideas. You can also see and touch things. It’s much more meaningful than a retouched photo or a 3D image generated by a computer! Packaging is a physical object and will always be a physical object.

These days, there’s such a quest for information on the part of marketers, we’re in such a fast-changing environment that people need to be able to find their own solutions. It’s important to have a meeting place like the show, but it’s also essential to have continuous information outlets like the newsroom.

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