How to Change from Plastic to Sustainable Carton Packaging

beach with plastic pollution

Image Credit: ead72 – stock.adobe.com

How to Change from Plastic to Sustainable Carton Packaging.

At Dollard Packaging we have been manufacturing cartons and sleeves since 1982. We have seen a lot of changes in packaging in those years but perhaps the biggest change of all has been the sustainability movement and the massive move away from plastic packaging.

“We need to move beyond guilt or blame, and get on with the practical tasks at hand” David Attenborough on Climate Change

In this article, we aim to give you step-by-step guidance on how to change from plastic packaging to sustainable carton packaging. Please contact us on sales@dollard-packaging.ie or 01 847 0044 if you would like help with a “Plastic to Carton” project.

Sustainable Cartons from Dollard Packaging

Sustainable, plant-based window film for cartons

At Dollard Packaging we can produce a carton or sleeve that is 100% sustainable, even if it contains a window with a protective film. This is because we can use a sustainable window film instead of “normal” plastic (i.e.fossil fuel-based plastic) for the film. Our film is compostable, biodegradable recyclable because it is made from plant-based cellulose. Read more about our sustainable film here.

Sustainable Boards for Packaging

Sustainable, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved boards are available from Dollard Packaging and we can help you find the best carton board for your product. We are FSC certified, and members of Repak and Sedex. 

Special Note: Boards and Inks Used for Food Cartons.

The manufacture of cartons intended for food packaging is a specialist area. The carton board material intended for direct contact with food must be specially selected. Consideration must be given to internal functional barriers to prevent moisture or grease migration from the product and the selection of low migration inks and coatings to prevent migration from the exterior of the carton.

At Dollard Packaging, we have vast experience in the manufacture of food cartons and we are very happy to assist you in finding the most sustainable carton board, inks and carton structure to meet the needs of your food product. Contact us on 01 847 00 44 or sales@dollard-packaging.ie

12 Steps to Change from Plastic Packaging to Sustainable Cartons

Below is a summary of the steps. Each of the steps is explained in further detail below.

Summary of the Plastic to Sustainable Carton Process

  1. Begin by talking to your carton manufacturer, before you talk to  your graphic designer. 
  2. Packaging Information and Lifestyle Questionnaire Completion by You
  3. Carton Samples are created by Dollard Packaging
  4. Carton/Sleeve  Tested and Reports by You
  5. Keyline is Produced by Dollard Packaging for your Graphic Designer
  6. Commence Graphic Design to Draft Stage Only
  7. Consultation with Dollard Packaging regarding the Draft Graphic Design and Quotations 
  8. Submission of Final Artwork to Dollard Packaging
  9. Artwork Sign Off by You
  10. Proof Sign-Off by You
  11. Carton Manufacture by Dollard Packaging
  12. Delivery of your Cartons

Explanation of Each Step

1. Begin by talking to your carton manufacturer, before talking to your graphic designer

 Always begin a carton design project by meeting with your packaging printer before you consult your graphic designer. This may seem counterintuitive, however, the most important initial issue regarding packaging is the structure of the carton or sleeve, not the artwork creation. The structure and the proposed cartonboard must be tested and approved before you approach a graphic designer looking for artwork creation. 

We can provide your graphic designer with a sample-tested key line (a keyline is a detailed outline of the structure of your proposed packaging which they can use to create the artwork in the correct format for printing) If your graphic designer creates artwork without following a keyline, this can cause errors in the artwork which will need to be corrected and will cause delays and unnecessary expense. You can read more about Dollard Packaging’s Guidelines for the Creation of Artwork for Cartons here.

2. Packaging Information and Lifestyle Questionnaire Completion by You

This will be completed by you, the customer and will give us vital information about your packaging requirements. The packaging of your product has to fulfil many functions including protecting, preserving your product throughout its life cycle and acting as your product’s salesperson (whether it is online or on a retail shelf). Therefore it is crucial to ensure that cardboard packaging is suitable for your product.

To establish whether or not cardboard-based packaging will work for your product, one needs to look at every stage of your product’s life cycle and check whether the proposed carton packaging will fulfil all its functions at every stage. 

Your product’s packaging will go through many stages such as design, printing, cutting and folding, transportation, being filled with your product (by machine/hand), storage, display in retail stores, transportation to/by the consumer, usage and storage and eventually recycling/composting/reuse.

At Dollard Packaging we ask that all buyers complete a Product Information and Life Cycle Questionnaire. This will give us the required information to choose the most suitable structure and board for your packaging.

Product & Packaging Information and Life Cycle Questionnaire

Your Budget

Decide roughly how much you plan to spend on your packaging. Based on this, we can advise you what type of carton or sleeve is most suitable for your product whilst fitting within your budget. 

Type of Product

What type of item is your product – food, drink, toy, breakable item etc? We use a range of boards (i.e cardboards) to suit different types of item, – as an example, for wet or cold foods, we will use a board with a waxed coating on the inside to prevent leakage. 

Direct Contact between the Product and the Packaging

Will there be direct contact between the product and its packaging? This is especially important in food packaging.

The manufacture of cartons intended for food packaging is a specialist area. The carton board material intended for direct contact with food must be specially selected. Consideration must be given to internal functional barriers to prevent moisture or grease migration from the product and the selection of low migration inks and coatings to prevent migration from the exterior of the carton. At Dollard Packaging, we have vast experience in the manufacture of food cartons and we will assist you in finding the most sustainable carton board.

Weight of Product

What weight is each unit of your product? (This will affect the weight/strength and type of board that’s best for your product) 

Product Packing

How will your product be packed, by machine or by hand? If it is by machine, then you will need samples to test that your packaging runs through your packing machinery smoothly. If it’s by hand, you’ll need to test that your staff can easily erect/open, insert product and close the packaging. 

Product Storage

Where, how and at what temperature will your product be stored at each stage of its lifecycle? For example, if it’s stored in the freezer, then a freezer-grade board is used, if it’s going to be stored or transported on ice, a board that’s waterproof and won’t disintegrate when in contact with ice will be necessary.

Product Stacking

Will your products be stacked on top of each other? This is another consideration that needs to be taken into account when deciding what board to use.

Product Postage

Is your product going to be put in the post at any point in its expected life cycle?

Your Target Customer

Who is your product targeted at? For example, if your target customer is a health-conscious, eco-aware consumer, then you may want to consider using recycled or eco-friendly boards and to advertise this in the text or images in the artwork.

Number of Different Types of Products

How many different products do you need packaging for? (If you need packaging for more than one product, then you may achieve savings by printing different types of packaging at the same time)

Reclosable Package

Do you need your packaging to be reclosable? If so, we will discuss the various closure options available.

Displaying the Product

Do you wish to display your product in the packaging—we can provide a die-cut window with or without a clear sustainable window patch which will both display and protect the product.

 Open Die-cut Window

Do you want consumers to be able to touch your product? Perhaps in the case of a toy where a child can press a button on the product. If so, we can provide an open die-cut window.

3. Carton Samples are created by Dollard Packaging

Samples will be based on your specification and information from the questionnaire. If you adhere to any standards such as BRC, please include that information in your specification.

Now that we have the required information, we will create a sample structure for your carton.  

We will give you samples of the carton using the board we propose to use for you to test on your filling machines/handlers and in all the various conditions that your packaging will go through throughout its life cycle. You will need to make sure that you test the sample thoroughly. You can read more about testing packaging when moving from plastic to sustainable packaging material here.

4. Carton/Sleeve Samples Tested and Reports by You

Samples must be tested on the packing/filling equipment that you plan to use or tested by the packaging handlers if it will be filled by hand. If it is necessary for you to source new packing/filling equipment, it would be advisable to engage your equipment supplier early in the Plastic to Carton Project.

If you are filling the cartons by hand, you may want to choose a carton structure that is easily erected such as crash lock bases, hinged lids etc for ease and speed of packing.

Samples must also be tested in all of the conditions across the expected lifecycle of the cartons.

You will need to give us comprehensive test reports so that we can adjust the carton structure and/or board if the samples did not perform adequately. If necessary, new samples will be provided by Dollard Packaging to submit for further testing.

5. Keyline is Produced by Dollard Packaging for your Graphic Designer

Dollard Packaging produces a Keyline for use by your Graphic Designer. A keyline (illustration below) is a detailed outline of the structure of your proposed packaging which they can use to create the artwork in the correct format for printing.

6. Commence Graphic Design to Draft Stage Only

Commence the graphic design of your carton to draft stage only. (Below we have notes on carton design issues that are specific to carton or sleeve manufacture only.) Before you proceed past the draft design stage, you will need to have a consultation with us about the design and quotations.

7. Consultation with Dollard Packaging regarding the Draft Graphic Design and Quotations 

Why do you need to consult us at the draft graphic design stage? 

This is to ensure that your artwork is being created in the most cost-effective way. In certain packaging designs, all the creative effects and colours you want can be created out of 4 colour process, thereby making your packaging a 4 colour print job.

In other packaging designs, the exact colours you want may necessitate the use of 4 colour process and 1 or 2 extra colours, thereby making this a 5 or 6 colour print job which is more expensive than a 4 colour. For certain corporate/brand colours, you may want to use the 5th or 6th colours.

As a packaging printing company, we occasionally receive artwork that is set up as a 5 or 6 colour print job for jobs that could easily have been printed out of 4 colour process and would, therefore, have been cheaper to print. We will explain how to get your artwork set up to achieve the best overall result, balancing costs with the number of colours used in your packaging design. Read an explanatory post here on how the number of colours affects packaging cost

We can provide quotations at this stage because we now know the proposed carton’s structure, number of colours, quantities* and sorts. 

*You may want to consider getting quotes on printing in bulk quantities to achieve savings. However, you will want to be sure that none of the information printed on the packaging will need to change before you’ve used up all your stock.

8. Submission of Final Artwork to Dollard Packaging

Please ensure that your graphic designer has read our artwork guidelines before they produce the final artwork and request that they create a Low-Resolution pdf of your final artwork and send it to us for our input prior to sending the completed full-resolution files.

9. Artwork Sign Off by You

If you are happy with the graphic design of your carton, you can sign-off the artwork at this stage.

10. Proof Sign-Off by You

There are a number of types of proof. We can guide you through which proof is best for your carton/sleeve before we begin the carton manufacturing process. You may find our Proofing Checklist helpful.

11. Carton Manufacture by Dollard Packaging

This is when your carton will be prepared in “pre-press”, printed, folded and delivered to you by Dollard Packaging. Alternatively, we can hold  your printed cartons as stock for you.* These cartons can then be delivered incrementally as and when you need them.

(*You will need to discuss this arrangement with us at the quotation stage)

12. Delivery of your Cartons

As a carton buyer, it will be useful for you to understand what factors affect the delivery times of your cartons. You can read more about these delivery factors here.

Specific Design Issues related to Carton Packaging 

Luxury Products

Your product may be a luxury product, therefore you will want your packaging to convey this – we can offer a wide range of special finishes such as embossing, spot and overall UV varnishing, die cuts, gold foil blocking etc. You can read more about how to Enhance Your Carton with Special Finishes here.

Design Style and Choice of Board

There is a wide range of boards available and you may want to choose a board that complements the graphic design of your carton or sleeve. For example, you may want to use a bright, colourful design for the younger market by printing in 4 colour process on glossy finish boards. We can give you or your designer board samples to help you choose a board. 

Instructions for use, storage, disposal, best before, recycling instructions etc.

You’ll need a packaging design that has enough room to display all this information legibly. Also, if you plan to have the finished carton varnished, the area where the “best before/ use by” date will be applied must be left unvarnished so that the laser ink will adhere to the cartonboard.

Food Producers

You will need to check out Food Packaging Regulations from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and check our website for tips in our guides on these regulations. For example, certain regulations apply to bold font and size of fonts for allergens etc.

Check out our post about 7 Ways to Make Your Cartons More Sustainable

Blogs about Manufacturers Who Changed From Plastic Packaging to Carton

Norwegian Fruit Farm Changes Plastic Packaging to Cartons

https://www.dollard-packaging.ie/norwegian-fruit-farm-changes-plastic-packaging-to-cartons/

Biscuit Manufacturer Reduces Plastic by 90%

https://www.dollard-packaging.ie/biscuit-manufacturer-reduces-plastic-by-90/

Plastic Fruit Pack Redesigned into a Sustainable Carton

https://www.dollard-packaging.ie/plastic-fruit-pack-redesigned-into-a-sustainable-carton/

Ingenious Redesign Eliminates Plastic in Memory Card Carton

https://www.dollard-packaging.ie/ingenious-redesign-eliminates-plastic-in-memory-card-carton/

Please contact us on 01 847 0044 or sales@dollard-packaging.ie if you would like help with a “Plastic to Carton” project.