Practicum: Elkline GmbH
Practicum: Elkline GmbH
Sustainability Focus of the Piece:
This practicum focused on finding sustainable material alternatives and methods for the company’s current use of low density polyethylene bags (aka polybags) used at all of their global production facilities. Near, middle and far term goals were considered.
Objective Focus of the Piece:
This final research presentation focused on proposing alternative materials, systems and new company infrastructure ideas for the current low density polyethylene product bags and mailers used for t-shirts coming mainly from India.
Frameworks such as Triple Top Line (Ecology, Equity, Economy), The Natural Step, Biomimicry, and Cradle to Cradle where considered.
Inspiration was also taken from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, O2’s 5 R’s of Great Design, and the book Packaging Sustainability by Wendy Jedlicka.
Tools such as the Okala Life Cycle Impact assessment (bill of materials), systems thinking, and Biomimcry’s Ask Nature were used.
Specific Task for Practicum
Understand the total, but focus on strictly primary and secondary packaging for organic t-shirt production coming from India.
Aligning Packaging with Company Values
A key position for the packaging design was that it matched Elkline’s company values, and new brand development.
As shown here, what came from the initial research is that company goals and current packaging goals were not aligned when stakeholder priorities were defined.
Packaging had many needs that came from the diverse stakeholders — from the warehouse, to producers to transporters, buyers, marketers and customers. The key was to hear them all out and get an understanding of needs from each perspective. The solution would need everyones input to be successful.
Some needs included for both product polybag and product mailer:
Needs to take as less space as possible for storage before use
Handling needs to be easy
Needs to have access to barcodes/clothing labels
Needs to protect item from damage and dirt
Concerns that it may need to remain transparent for product visibility
Needs to look presentable. If it looks bad, its thrown away.
Needs to be flat, rectangular, box-like to fit within standard transportation company requirements—cannot be cylindrical or triangular
Needs to work for both online and in-store transport
Product and Package Lifecycle
As you can see from the simplified lifecycle diagrams below that the actual product and the packaging don’t quite match. Finding the red icons —indicating final trash—there are many places where the polybags get tossed, even multiple polybags for one cotton t-shirt, say if an online shopper returns the shirt and it gets sent back with a torn polybag, a new one has to take its place.
What is also something to note which isn’t visually represented here, is the span of time it takes for the end-of-use product to break down and cycle back into purpose. There would be a huge difference between the actual t-shirt lifespan and the polybag, which brings to light the incompatibility the product to packaging is.
Design Inspirations from Nature
In the end, for Focus #1, the product polybag, I presented three packing methods to lessen material waste and one main alternative material best used the resources of the local area of production in India, and something that would be easy to integrate into the current systems in place. There was also a suggested list of alternative materials that could be used instead.
For Focus #2, the poly-mailer, I left them with two options that exemplified a reuse option as well as a single-use alternative. Materials were also noted, with one option of upcycling from current company waste streams.
There is much more research than what I have space to display here, but for confidential purposes, I will not display details here as they relate directly to Elkline. If there are questions or interests in what designs I collected and proposed, please feel free to contact me directly.