He said an example of bad packaging would be a pack that used multi-materials and was hard to recycle.
However, Barnes stressed that “first of all, the packaging has to protect the product and also provide a marketing function”.
Good design vs. bad design
He added: “We recently had a discussion with local authorities and we looked at a number of different products. And what becomes clear even within the same category of product, be it snacks, crisp, bread, or pet food, there are some examples of good design of packaging and bad design.
“How can we reward good design for recovery and resource use? Is there need for a fiscal incentive? Ultimately, is there a need for a variable VAT rate to reward good design and punish poor design?
“We have seen the success of the landfill tax as a fiscal incentive and can we use fiscal incentives elsewhere to drive sustainability?”
Barnes said a fair system would be to tax the owner of the product for bad design. He said: “If they were taxed they will hopefully instruct their packaging designers and manufacturers to improve their design.
“The challenge will be in terms of measuring what good design is in an equitable way.
“One of the quotes I always come up with is from Lord Kelvin who said that ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’.”
Barnes also said that packaging designers need to talk more within their own businesses to other category managers to see “what has worked and what has not”.
Different messages within the same brand
Barnes explained: “We recently did a workshop and picked up packaging in a number of different categories.
“We found that even with products that are owned by the same owner, if we look at Nestlé for example who make confectionery as well as pet food, there appears to be quite different things going on within those two categories.
“Confectionery has clear labelling [sustainability] and clear objectives but within pet food maybe not the same strength. I think that this is a lost opportunity within Nestlé that provides good leadership.
“It needs to ensure that leadership is across all of its brands and its products.
“I admire what they do. However, I wonder if they sit round the table and talk about sustainability across all their different brands in all the different countries that they are based in? And if they don’t what are the challenges to doing that? Sustainability leadership needs to come from the top.”
A Nestlé spokesman told PN: “Nestlé carefully considers the environmental impact of packaging as an integral part of its product design. Since the early 1990s, we have been reducing the amount of packaging we use through our global source reduction programme – eliminating unnecessary packaging and reducing weight while ensuring product quality.
“In 2009, Nestlé UK & Ireland became the first major confectionery manufacturer to replace non-recyclable plastic with recyclable cardboard packaging in 20 million Easter eggs, 80% of the 25 million that we made that year. In 2010 we introduced cardboard trays to many of our large Easter eggs, replacing plastic inserts and reducing their use in a further 10% of production.
“In May 2011, Nestlé Purina launched “Together We Can” an initiative to encourage Felix and Winalot purchasers to recycle more pet food cans.”
If you enjoyed this story, you may also like this one: