When you receive a product that has been shipped to your home, how many times do you think about the packaging it comes with and the journey it has been through to reach at your doorstep? And what do you do with all that single use plastic packaging?
“In the experience economy that we live in today, a product and the packaging it comes in, be it either primary, secondary or tertiary packaging, is an integral part of the product life itself as it flows through the entire value chain. Gone are the days when you would design and manufacture a product first and think about the packaging and transportation later,” says Shika Chand, Senior Client Executive at Dassault Systèmes and an expert on increasing sustainability through business transformations.
”As our supply chain is truly global today, we need to start thinking about packaging and transportation at the same time as we conceptualize the experience we want to create through our products. We need to have a plan on how to take care of the packaging once the product is in the hands of the consumer,” says Shika Chand.
Some plastics cannot be easily recycled
Not all kinds of plastics are bad. Having knowledge of the different types of plastic is critical to understanding the complexity of recycling, upcycling and the health factors associated with it. In general, there are seven broad categories of plastics according to international standards. However, it is the single use plastic for packaging which is not recyclable or compostable that creates the problem.
Unlike glass and metal, plastic cannot be repeatedly recycled without quickly degrading in quality. Nor does it easily moulder. For example, a plastic bottle takes up to 450 years to degrade. It breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces and finally ends up in the ocean or in the air from where it gets into marine life and finally into humans.
”Today there is advanced technology and more understanding on how to deal with discarded packaging,” Shika Chand says, and continues:
”I believe that packaging deserves a second chance.”
Since the 1950s, plastic waste has grown dramatically. According to figures from World Economic Forum, about 400 million tons of plastic waste is produced annually. By 2050, there will be around 12 billion tons of plastic litter in landfills and the environment. This trend is not slowing down. Currently, EU’s plastic recycling rate is only about 30 percent and China’s is around 25 percent.
Here is what we can do about it!
The linear economy, in which raw material is extracted from the earth, used in a product which is later bought by a consumer and finally discarded while creating a waste problem, is coming under increased scrutiny.
”This model is no longer valid either economically, ecologically, or politically. One can ask where the responsibility lies and what can be done about it, and here I say that the responsibility falls on both the consumer and the manufacturer,” Shika Chand says.
To solve the problem of single use plastic, she says we need to move towards circular design where all of our packaging can be put back in the loop.
”Superior product design makes plastics recycling easier. At Dassault Systèmes, we are paving the way to redefine innovative sustainable packaging with cutting-edge material science. By using virtual twin technologies that models the package and the product it is meant to carry, we apply mathematical and physical laws to determine how it can be made circular,” Shika Chand says.
The power of the Virtual Twin
The beauty of the virtual twin technology is that a package’s entire circular journey can be planned and validated even before the first unit is produced. As an accurate representation of real-world conditions that uses real-time data, the virtual twin allows manufacturers to replicate material properties down to the molecular level by connecting biological, chemical and material innovations.
The resulting 3D model is a hyper-realistic rendering of the packaging that adheres to real-world physics. Manufacturers can then change or swap material properties, optimize the packaging’s thickness, simulate for transportation, create educational and informative labelling and accurately measure the rate of decay and total carbon footprint.
”We have the technology and the know-how to create a world with much less single use plastic. This is a step forward towards a more sustainable society,” Shika Chand says.
Read more about virtual twin technology for sustainable packaging: https://www.3ds.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods-retail/innovative-sustainable-packaging
Watch our recent webinars for Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail industry:
- Live webinar on October 5, 2022: Drive & Accelerate Innovation in Consumer Packaged Goods with AI & Machine Learning
- On-demand webinar: Sustainable Packaging Solutions through Virtual Twins
- On-demand webinar: Optimising Real Time Network Logistics