Approximately three-quarters of Americans now own a smartphone. Most of us rely on these devices to navigate the many aspects of our daily lives. We can send an email, schedule appointments, manage our bank accounts, check the weather and search the web anytime and, pretty much, anywhere. The age of the smartphone has transformed the way we do almost everything, including how we shop.
Recent studies suggest that consumer behavior is evolving around these smart devices. People have begun to use their smartphones to compare prices before heading to the store and to research products while making purchasing decisions. These shifts in consumer behaviors have not gone unnoticed by manufacturers who wish to “cash in” on the growing trend. Some companies are beginning to incorporate microchips and digital printing in their packaging designs, allowing customers to interact with their brand through the use of their smartphone while shopping.
Proponents claim that this emerging technology, dubbed “intelligent packaging,” holds the potential for numerous benefits such as improved logistics, transparency and consumer convenience. However, the addition of electronics into ordinary packaging raises concerns about proper disposal and may prove challenging for mills that process recycled materials.
The problem with recycling packaging that has been altered by the addition of microchips and digital printing is that it is extremely difficult to remove such things and recover the base packaging material, be it plastic, metal, paper or glass. The process takes considerable amounts of energy and currently only exists for a small number of specialty markets such as drink cartons and paper coffee cups which are lined with a thin layer of plastic. In short, the current recycling infrastructure is not set up to filter out tiny contaminants like microchips.
The good news is that many of these potential problems could be avoided through responsible design choices. For example, placing electronic chips in removable product labels rather than embedding them into the packaging itself could make sorting out these kinds of contaminants much easier. It’s important for package designers to consult with recyclers to ensure their product’s packaging remain recyclable well into the future. To learn more about intelligent packaging and its potential effects on the recycling industry follow the links below.
Food Packaging Gets Smart – and Poses a Recycling Nightmare https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/may/10/smart-packaging-recycling-nightmare-electronic-tags-food
Smart Packaging – Intelligent Packaging for Food, Beverages, Pharmaceuticals and Household Products http://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=2152
Eight Studies That Show How Shoppers Use Smartphones https://econsultancy.com/blog/11259-eight-studies-that-reveal-how-shoppers-use-smartphones-in-store