Although the concept of packaging is usually related to the final product, the truth is that every industry relies on packaging at every stage of the manufacturing chain as it is needed to carry materials (raw or manufactured) to the next step of the process. The main issue here is that a huge proportion of these containers are made out of plastic and add to the current global pollution problem.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, the fashion sector, comprising textile and apparel creation and production, is the second-largest global economic activity in terms of trade (Mukherjee, S., 2015). This means that the fashion industry creates global value chains where the various stages of production take place in different countries; creating a chain in which each garment transaction has some sort of packaging involved. We are talking about packaging to transport raw materials to the start of the chain, then the transport of already manufactured textiles, dyes, and threads to sewing workshops, and then the distribution of products from the factories to distribution centers to retail stores (Mukherjee, S., 2015).
By 2017 plastic packaging was already estimated to make up 26% of the total volume of plastics created a year, and that 72% of it was thrown away (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2016). We can guess that, as the pandemic goes on, e-commerce's environmental impact on fashion is getting worse and that plastic pollution levels are getting higher every day. Besides the big businesses that haven't paid too much attention to this, there is a big number of brands that are interested in shrinking their negative impact in the global environmental panorama instead of focusing on cost reduction, and because of that new materials and innovative packaging concepts are emerging (Caniato, F., Caridi, M., Crippa, L., & Moretto, A., 2012).
The increasing importance of creating a memorable customer shopping experience, like the unboxing trend that goes on social media (using influencers as a marketing strategy), might be also increasing the unnecessary packaging in the fashion world. It's time for brands to conceive conventional packaging as what it is: just waste, and to try, by using eco-design strategies, to build a new system in which these product containers could mean something more than just an adder to pollution levels. Maybe this waste problem can be addressed by working on material selection, selecting suppliers and partners that use them, and re-thinking a way for recovering packaging or reusing it.
To make a concept gravitate towards eco-packaging the design must take into consideration (WU, Y. C., & TU, J. C., 2018):
Avoid packaging at all.
Design packaging to be a useful part of the product.
Use non-toxic printing ink, adhesives, and dyes.
Design packaging as a reusable container.
Use biodegradable materials or recycled ones.
Use as few materials as possible. Choose one material or in the case of multiple materials make sure it is labeled correctly.
Make sure there is information about correct disposal.
Mukherjee, S. (2015). Environmental and social impact of fashion: Towards an eco-friendly, ethical fashion. International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies, 2(3), 22-35.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2016). The new plastics economy: rethinking the future of plastics. (PDF). Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 29.
Caniato, F., Caridi, M., Crippa, L., & Moretto, A. (2012). Environmental sustainability in fashion supply chains: An exploratory case-based research. International journal of production economics, 135(2), 659-670.
WU, Y. C., & TU, J. C. (2018). A STUDY ON EVALUATION INDICATOR OF GREEN PACKAGING DESIGN. Journal of the Science of Design, 2(2), 2_63-2_72.