Future Packaging affect me when I was barely ten years old, with my brothers, we founded an association for the protection of nature. On weekends, we were busy emptying the illegal dumpsites: this is where I had my first contact with the packaging. I was not yet fully aware of its environmental impact: it was just garbage, and I was thinking about how not to hurt myself with it, not to cut myself, for example, with rusty cans and pieces of glass.
Thus, I was confronted with an education and a way of life close to nature, and I was made aware of environmental protection, waste, waste, and consequently, packaging by this bias. So it was not an activist life, but rather sensitivity and a way of life that developed very early on in me.
Was it this childhood that pushed you to focus on packaging design?
Not really. I wasn’t bad at drawing. I had also won my first drawing competition in the 1970s: it was a competition organized by UNESCO to promote environmental protection in the face of the first ecological disasters. It is this attraction for drawing that prompted me to study painting and graphic design in the USA.
I then immediately become a freelance graphic designer. And that’s where I started to experience packaging from a professional point of view: one of my first clients asked me to create packaging, and other similar graphic creations followed.
I then realized that the packaging, which I had identified as a child, was a waste; I created them now.
How did you then move towards more environmentally friendly packaging?
In the early 1990s, we started talking about packaging recycling. At the same time, political ecology is born; but I have no interest in it, so much the environment is a political cause, a rather humanistic value.
As soon as Eco-Emblazes was set up, I became interested in recycling and became a fervent promoter. I also try to spread the message very quickly that packaging designers are responsible for the environmental impact of their creations; and that, if they do nothing, they would soon be guilty. In addition to my work as a designer, I write articles, notably in Emblaze Magazine and books.
As a packaging designer, I tried to deal with the “cradle to the grave” packaging; but I realized I was content to “dress the dead man.”
So, ten years ago, I put into practice an idea that was already old of custom boxes: to separate myself from my agency, to become a packaging consultant. I realized that as a designer, everything I was promoting custom packaging for small business in terms of eco-design was not taken into account enough by my clients. To help companies do better, I had to take on an “advisory” role, not a “creative performer.”
From now on, I provide my eco-design methodology to my clients; at the same time, as an elected official from my village of Comb-out, I take care of waste management. I have thus come full circle. I take care of the “cradle to grave” packaging and hope to help make packaging less of a problem for the environment.
How do you explain the massive return of paper and cardboard packaging to current business uses?
It is not so much that companies are turning overwhelmingly to these types of packaging: they are, above all, turning away from plastic. This notion touches on two essential items for humans: how plastic impacts animals and harms human health.
This plastic bashing, reinforced by legislation that seems to target mainly plastic, is pushing companies to move instead towards paper and cardboard to minimize the use of plastic in future packaging.
However, unfortunately, in reality, there is always more communication around these eco-packaging initiatives than concrete facts.
In your opinion, will plastic packaging completely disappear from business practices?
Today, it is difficult, if not impossible, to do without plastic. Plastic has become essential in our lives, and we have not yet found an alternative. For example, without plastic, during this Covid-19 pandemic. We would have struggled to get by syringes, doses of vaccine, protection for healthcare workers, respirators, everything is plastic!
Going back to packaging, you have to understand that plastic is not the problem as such. The concern is instead a problem of plastic use, and in particular, its single-use. Unfortunately, companies are still too much asking the question of “how to use plastic” rather than “why to use it.” All this leads them to overprotect, overwrap, and over-consume this material.
In short, companies use plastic in their packaging to create Arianne rockets to get their bread at the end of the street. And these plastic packaging’s have such protective and resilient (not necessarily practical) capabilities that they end up in nature and stay there.
In my opinion, plastic is not going to go away, but its use must be completely reconsidered:
On the one hand, manufacturers must ask themselves the absolute need to protect their products. For example, do we need envelopes with plastic bubble wrap? This is to avoid an “over-functional” use of plastic.
On the other hand, the consumer must also ask himself whether he needs this plastic future packaging. This reflection only does today when he throws away his packaging: his review must go back to the moment when he buys.
It is therefore up to manufacturers as much as to consumers to question themselves.
What do you think are the most promising major packaging trends for the future?
I talk about it in the first period of the future packaging revolution: this revolution brings about several exciting trends.
Thus we see the emergence of materials of renewable origin (for example, plastics made from cellulose) or even recycled materials.
This revolution sounded the death knell for non-recyclable packaging. Tomorrow, it will impossible to create packaging that cannot be recycled. But that is not the basis of this revolution per se.
However, the trends that will truly revolutionize packaging put an end to the notion of single-use. The objective must be to completely reinvent packaging around the idea of multiple-use, of reuse.
But on the other hand, this reuse trend deals with the issues of new distribution methods. Single-use packaging made sense for network marketing (hypermarkets, essentially), where consumers went to the product. From now on, it is more and more the product that goes to the consumer.
This is how we see the emergence of levers that go in the direction of this revolution. The development of materials of renewable origin (for example, plastics made from cellulose) or even recycled materials.
In short, the most promising trends are not the packaging itself but new ways of packaging of burger boxes of sustainable solution in reusable packaging.