At a busy PCD Congress in Paris, Alcan innovation director Nicholas Thorne set forth his vision for how brands can develop luxury products that are still environmentally friendly.
To hear his assessment of the different options available and an overview of the approach taken at Alcan Packaging Beauty listen here.
Thorne acknowledged that there is a tension between sustainability and luxury especially in perfume bottles where weight and thick walls have come to define quality.
But he said: “Even when we are selling dreams and something that really has a high value to the consumer, there is an awful lot we can do about sustainability.”
Starting by defining terms, Thorne said sustainability does not only cover the environment but also has a social aspect.
He said: “What is extremely important is that all our products are made under social and working conditions for which we and our customers are proud of. Our own image and the brand image of our customers would be affected if we were not very careful.”
Looking specifically at the environment, Thorne said that even though weight is associated with quality, small reductions in weight would probably go unnoticed by the consumer.
He suggested that even shaving one gram off the weight of a compact would make a significant environmental difference.
However, to deliver long-term change, Thorne said consumer habits would have to evolve. He expects this to be a gradual process in which packaging providers will play an important promotional role.
Thorne expects some polarisation of the market so some consumers may continue on the old path while others embrace lighter packaging, new materials and new habits such as filling up the perfume bottle back at the shop.
Discussing new materials, Thorne said bio-sourced and renewably sourced polymers are currently not of sufficient quality. He said: “These materials are replacing very mature technical polymers. To improve them we need to improve their barrier properties, their temperature resistance and their compatibility with our products.”
While we may have to wait for the next generation of biopolymers, Thorne said high quality recycled materials are coming onto the market.
Alcan Packaging Beauty has already launched a plastic tube made from up to 60 percent recycled materials. Thorne said the product makes no compromise on quality and has the same visual and technical qualities as its other tubes.