21 July 2012

Video Reflection - Packaging

After viewing the video series of both ‘How It’s Made: Packaging’ and ‘Giving Packaging a New Life’ the viewer is left with a solid understanding of how different types of packaging is made, and the recycling processes at the end of life.

The videos give a detailed view of the processes required for packaging from start to finish, including the recycling processes such as sorting and breaking down the packaging.
The aluminium packaging tubes was an informative video to watch. As I had little knowledge of how they were made before this video. It was interesting to learn that the tubes are made from a single disc of aluminium that was punched from a flat sheet. The disc is then fed into a press for impact extrusion, which creates the tube shape. The scrap aluminium from the sheet gets recycled into a new aluminium sheet, ready for the next set of discs to be punched. This process was relatively the same for the aluminium drink containers.

I was fascinated to learn how easily recyclable tetrapaks are. As they are made from laminated paper, plastic and foil I had assumed the process to recycle them would be difficult. Upon watching the video I learned it was a simple process of chopping the material up and adding water so the paper would swell and separate from the foil and plastic layers.

One thing I had always wondered was how recycling was separated, as at home, there is only one bin that all recyclable material is put in to. That question was answered in the final video for ‘Giving Packaging a New Life’. Thanks to relatively new combined recycling plants, this process is now easier and can save up to 50% of associated costs compared to separate recycling plants. The collected recyclables are sent to a combined recycling plant where they are emptied onto big conveyer belts. From these belts the contents are separated. Air blowers separate the lightweight plastic films into one section. Magnets are used to collect the metals and sieves remove the paper products. Infra red systems are used to detect composite packaging, such as tetrapaks, and channel a localised blast of air to separate these. Once the differing materials are separated they can be recycled accordingly.

It is important for designers to understand these processes as this knowledge enables the designer to consider the impact of the product they are designing, and whether there is a less environmentally intrusive way of bringing a new product to life.
This knowledge also creates certain dilemmas in the designing process. Whether the designer will choose glass packaging as this can be made from up to 90% recycled material saving energy in production and reducing the need for virgin material taken from natural resources. However, this type of packaging is heavy which leads to increased transport costs and carries the risk of the glass breaking leaving dangerous shards.