Lightweighting Can Be A Heavy Lift For The Packaging Industry

13th October 2015

An interesting article on Packaging World describes how packaging companies are looking to lightweighting techniques to minimize material use and reduce manufacturing costs; as well as describing some of the difficulties in the approach that are somewhat unique to this market. Problems such as making the product too flimsy or reducing the quality feel of the pack for example.

An abstract of the article can be found below but please head over to Packaging World for the full story.


“Lightweighting is achieved by reducing the mass of the packaging, analogous to a person’s weight-loss program. Lightweighting should not be confused with source reduction, although both result in packaging that weighs less. Source reduction can cross categories, i.e. a flexible package is substituted for a rigid package. Lightweighting retains the category, i.e. a package becomes a lighter version of itself. Another distinction is timing. As a generality, source reduction is practiced on a package under initial development, whereas lightweighting is practiced on a commercialized package.

When sustainability became an expected consideration in packaging, lightweighting was a ready-made option, for two main reasons: it was applicable to all categories of packaging and decision-makers were experienced in it. Regarding the latter, the motive for lightweighting had long been cost-reduction, consistent with the philosophy of setting packaging criteria, then meeting them in the most cost-effective manner. That philosophy still applies; however, decision-makers should guard against unintended breaches committed in the name of sustainability.

Just as a person can lose weight to the point of compromised health, packaging can be lightweighted to the point of compromised effectiveness. The consumer should be the focus; for, if the targeted consumer rejects the packaging, all resources expended by the company will have been for naught.

Lightweighted packaging should not be perceived by the consumer as being flimsy. Not only is that a knock aesthetically, but it can also undermine confidence in the packaging’s performance, and not necessarily limited to product protection. An example is when reduced rigidity renders the packaging less convenient to grab, handle, and dispense. PET bottles for plain water, if not already at that point, are close to it. An opposing example is water that is flavored, nutritionally-enhanced, or otherwise differentiated. Their PET bottles are sturdier and often of proprietary design, consistent with the premium-priced products. The tactile appeal of packaging is of increasing importance, as haptics (the study of touch) becomes more incorporated into packaging strategy.

Care should be exercised so as not to choose lightweighting as the solution to the wrong problem. The aforementioned bottles for plain water, again serve as an example. Even if they become paper-thin, it would not appease the people who regard the problem as one of quantity. Those people—and their numbers are legion—recite how many times end-to-end placed bottles can encircle the Earth or how many times those bottles can extend to the moon and back. Such recitations can’t be countered by lightweighting alone. The better, fuller response is to emphasize that water is life-essential, the bottled form provides convenience, production numbers prove consumer acceptance, and the bottles are sustainable because they’re lightweighted and recyclable.”

Continue reading on Packaging World.