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Winners of Metsä’s Sustainable Design Challenge Share Insights

Winners of Metsä Board’s Better with Less – Design Challenge provide perspectives on what inspired their submissions and what is needed to expand sustainable packaging design.

Better With Less Design Challenge 2022

European producer of fresh fiber paperboards Metsä Board recently announced the winners of its third international 2022-2023 Better with Less – Design Challenge. The competition invited designers to create the zero-waste packaging of the future. As many as 124 entrants from 27 countries joined the challenge with their creative ideas.

The competition jury, which included renowned packaging design experts from around the world, chose two submissions to share first place: Kid’s Headphones Packaging by designer Kitty Ching and the Cardboard Protecting Filler by designers Marcin Michalski, Monika Klimpel, and Adrian Olejnik.

“Choosing the winner from such excellent entries was an incredibly difficult decision, so the jury decided to select two first-place winners,” says Ilkka Harju, chairman of the jury and packaging services director at Metsä Board.

The Kid's Headphone Packaging by Kitty ChingThe Kid's Headphone Packaging by Kitty ChingThe Kid’s Headphones Packaging focuses on consumer usability and recyclability. According to the jury, the elegant design engineering provides easy-to-open packaging and excellent protection of the product. It also allows for reuse, as the inner part of the packaging provides an option to store the headphones.

The Cardboard Protecting Filler by Marcin Michalski, Monika Klimpel, and Adrian OlejnikThe Cardboard Protecting Filler by Marcin Michalski, Monika Klimpel, and Adrian OlejnikThe Cardboard Protecting Filler is a TV or electronics transport protection solution that creates a protective, beam-like structure on the TV packaging, protecting the contents on each side of the package. The fresh fiber packaging is said to be lightweight and durable, supporting the circular economy in terms of easy recycling and minimizing the amount of material used.

RESHAPE by Dawid ThielRESHAPE by Dawid ThielThe third prize was awarded to RESHAPE by Dawid Thiel, a packaging concept designed to work for a wider range of products due to a packaging format that significantly reduces the number of packaging items that need to be stored. The graphics guide the consumer to tailor the packaging to their specific needs.

The Zero Waste Medication Blister Pack by Patrick WalbyThe Zero Waste Medication Blister Pack by Patrick WalbyAn internship at Metsä Board’s Paperboard and Packaging Excellence Centre in Finland was also awarded to one student. The winner was the Zero Waste Medication Blister Pack designed by Patrick Walby. The pharma industry package aims to replace the plastic and aluminum often used in medication packaging with paperboard.

Totally Bananas packaging by Max GubbinsTotally Bananas packaging by Max GubbinsTwo honorary mentions were also awarded to Totally Bananas packaging  designed by Max Gubbins and F’lover, designed by Mine Koca.

F’lover by Mine KocaF’lover by Mine Koca

Packaging designer roundtable

After the finalists were identified and the winners chosen, Metsä Board convened a roundtable of these individuals to get insights from on what motivated and inspired them to create their concepts and whether they believe the designs will motivate other companies to seek sustainable package design solutions.

Q: What was the initial idea for your Better With Less entry?

Dawid Thiel, RESHAPE

The core idea of RESHAPE was Reduce & Reuse—reduce the consumption of raw materials (i.e., water, energy, wood), and reuse the same packaging many times in a variety of ways.

Patrick Walby, Zero-Waste Medication Blister Pack

When taking on the brief, I began brainstorming the variety of packaging that I see and use in my daily life, ranging from food and convenience packaging to consumer packaging. The idea for the zero-waste blister pack came to me when I was taking medication for a headache. Seeing the empty plastic blister pack end up in the bin made me think there had to be a more sustainable way of packaging medication.

Marcin Michalski, Cardboard Protecting Filler

We were motivated to participate for the first time in it by the desire to promote environmentally friendly solutions.

Kitty Ching, Kids Headphones Packaging

I wanted the challenge of packaging an irregular-shaped object.

Max Gubbins, Totally Bananas Packaging

We wanted to create something potentially disruptive and beautiful. Totally Bananas Packaging is a zero-waste packaging solution because there actually is no packaging. Small and shallow holes are pierced in the skin of the banana which accelerates the bruising of the skin in just that area. This allows graphics and communication of information to be created on the surface of the banana with no inks.

Mine Koca, F’lover

I thought that the use of plastic and cardboard in the flower packaging sector is unnecessary and that more minimal designs can be created. By making a functional design with less cardboard material, F'lover is a package that is easy to produce, transport, store, display, and recycle.

Q: Why did you pick this particular category/packaging design for this product?

Ching

I noticed that there wasn’t a circular solution for low to mid-range headphones, especially for junior/kid’s products. The assumption being that most kids would lose the product before they outgrow it.

Koca

A zero-waste experience was one of my main goals before I started my project. I aimed to find a design solution with the folding method without using extra materials such as plastic, glue, or a lot of cardboard. In addition, I wanted a single branch or a small bouquet of flowers to be giftable, to look minimal and stylish, and I thought I could achieve this with a minimal packaging design.

Walby
When it came to creating a sustainable blister-pack design, there was no need to reinvent the wheel but rather reframe it with circularity in mind. The current form of the packaging works and just needs to be redesigned slightly to make it both structurally sound and usable when producing it out of paper. Instead of pushing medication out of the foil seal, the paper can be peeled back and designed so that it can accommodate different size medications.

Michalski

The filler project had earlier appeared in our internal research and development program. The Better with Less competition is the first time we presented this solution to a worldwide audience and are constantly working on its development and improvement.

Thiel

This solution is directly connected with delivery services/e-commerce and could make a huge impact by minimizing the carbon footprint (through the reduction of empty space in transport).

Gubbins

These zero-waste solutions are applicable to nearly everything, it’s just a matter of changing consumer habits and industry mindsets. Manipulating the exterior natural protection of fruits and vegetables to communicate information is certainly possible for much of what we eat. The piercing of the skin like we suggest with bananas is probably limited to bananas and select other fruits.

Q: What do you think the future is for your design concept?

Walby

There is no doubt that we need to start designing for a sustainable future, and I hope this design concept can spark change, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. Currently, the medical and pharmaceutical industries produce a lot of waste with one-time-use packaging made of both hard and soft plastics. Finding areas where this trend can be moved towards using more sustainable and zero-waste materials such as in the creation of blister packs needs to happen.

Michalski

We would like our fillers to be widely used as soon as possible. After winning the Better With Less competition, we hope to promote our solution to electronics and other manufacturers around the world.

Ching

Ideally, I hope it becomes the standard for headphones, creating uniformity in stores, encouraging all users to care for their belongings because the packaging is for keeps.

Gubbins

We want to collaborate with brands and supermarkets to bring the concept to life. It is these types of solutions that we need if the reduction of waste is the goal.

Koca

I think that more minimal packaging will be made in every field in the future. While not wasting our resources and sustainability issues are at the forefront, it is inevitable that packaging will move in this direction in every sector.

Q: What are the main challenges to creating beautiful and functional packaging that’s also a circular solution?

Thiel

The greatest challenges are the production capabilities and the balance between functionality and consumer friendly. Most goods and products are packaged in over-engineered and wasteful forms that require an excess of materials. Creating beautiful and functional packaging does not have to be overly complicated but does require thinking outside of the box and exploring how you can get the most out of a packaging concept while reducing the number of materials used.

Michalski

The main challenge was to create a cardboard solution that would meet all the requirements of polystyrene fillers, such as strength, ease of forming, product protection and, of course, price. The first idea appeared very quickly, but it took quite a lot of time to technically develop a ready-made product that would meet the expectations.

Ching

Main challenges include changing behaviors and education. We must educate others that packaging plays a vital role and shouldn’t be an afterthought so that companies invest in sustainable packaging and design for longevity. In addition, we need to educate the public to recycle and be mindful of their consumption of products/ fashion and its impact on the environment.

Koca

The first difficulties that come to my mind are the use of uniform designs, the size of the products and the difficulty of carrying them, and the cost concern of a design that is both functional and aesthetic.

Gubbins

Circular solutions are just one potential solution to our waste problem. If circular is the goal, then governments need to provide solutions to address the waste stream. Many cities still don't have comprehensive systems in place. Beyond that, brands need to actually design solutions that can be recycled. Then customers must change their shopping habits and expectations of what packaging is. At Our Way Studio, we believe in reducing the packaging to be minimal or even better, to nothing. Totally Bananas packaging aims to show how this goal is possible.

Q: What would be your advice for others looking to submit designs for this type of packaging challenge in the future?

Walby

The best advice I can give to someone wishing to take on a packaging challenge like this is to explore a wide range of different avenues that can be taken to package your chosen product or goods. Beautiful packaging may not be as functional and vice versa—the key is to balance the two. Think about who would be picking up the packaging and using it, and how can I make packaging that meets the needs of my target audience while ensuring zero waste can be achieved.

Thiel

Try to understand real customer needs and the current situation of the market. And try to develop your idea with a broad mindset and in line with sustainability.

Ching

Go for it. Any well considered design idea should be shared because it encourages others to also make eco-friendly decisions and facilitates conversations on sustainability.

Gubbins

Be brave, not mediocre.


Read article   Read this story on Metsä Board’s Excellence Centre in Finland.


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