04 - 05 June 2025 in Munich CosmeticBusiness



24/05/2024 CosmeticBusiness

How Does Sustainable Packaging Design Work?

Pitfalls for Start-ups to Avoid

One of our customers came to us with a great, certified natural cosmetics product that they wanted us at Gerschon Verpackungen to bottle in bio-based and recyclable green PE bottles. Then we received a request that immediately set alarm bells ringing – they wanted to print the bottles completely in black. Black is beautiful, sure, but from a sustainability perspective, it could hardly be more problematic. Black ink almost always contains carbon, which undermines the recycling process because this colour is hardly ever recognised by sorting scanners. Even recyclable green PE is of no use here.

Products Marketed as Sustainable Account for Over Half of the Growth Seen

According to a study conducted by GfK Panel Services Deutschland, environmentally friendly packaging influences purchasing decisions for around two thirds of consumers. Various other studies also show that between 63% and 85% of consumers are prepared to pay more for climate-neutral consumer goods.

But what does more sustainable cosmetics packaging actually look like? Young start-ups in particular don't have the budget for endless test runs or packaging fails.

At Gerschon, we work on meaningful product design on a daily basis and offer our customers free advice on how to bring form, content, brand and budget into line with one another.

We have put together a list of the biggest mistakes to steer clear of in future:

Pitfall 1: Reverting to Clichés

Packaging materials can be subject to a variety of clichés. Bamboo, acacia and the like have a natural, elegant aesthetic and are frequently used for high-quality lids. However, treated wood unfortunately cannot be recycled and always lands in the rubbish bin. So, forget clichés like these, select materials without being swayed by ideology, and view your decision as an opportunity to communicate with your customers, paving the way for more transparency and authenticity.

Pitfall 2: Layering

Material mixes in packaging are often guided by product protection considerations. While layering may be a clever solution in the clothing world, it becomes a problem in the recycling one, as the material components have to be separated again at great expense. Cans and modern airless dispensers are already available in legally compliant cosmetics mono-materials such as (r)PET, PreProp/PP or Green PE. If mixing is absolutely necessary, care should be taken to ensure that no plastics of varying densities or loose metal parts are included that could be "magnetised away" during the recycling process.

Pitfall 3: Doubling Up

Scrutinise your product design from start to finish. Let's say you use a pump dispenser with a hygienic twist-lock and a folding box made of grass paper for your serum. Why does the dispenser also need a lid? That's exactly what we mean. Save yourself product costs and spare the environment the unnecessary lids.

Pitfall 4: Giving Away Valuable Packaging Space

Use the space available on your packaging to communicate with your customers! Sustainable packaging is of no use if consumers do not know how to recycle it properly. Explain to your customers why you have chosen the packaging and how it should be disposed of. If there is not enough space, use a link or QR code to refer customers to your website.

Pitfall 5: Forgetting the Target Group and Use Case

We see it time and time again: products whose packaging does not align with the content, the target group or where the product is used, and which therefore end up prematurely in the bin. For example, labels are suitable for shower gels (daily use, short life cycle), but not for expensive facial oils that are handled with oily fingers for months and quickly begin to look very unappealing. No label can withstand this, but a high-quality direct print can. Speaking of shower gel, be sure to pay attention to the font size – unless you prefer to shower with your glasses on, that is.

You can find out more about packaging and sustainability at www.gerschon.de

Source: Gerschon
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