A mobile phone package should give a message about the product image for a customer. It should also complete the experience that the product is providing for the user.
"The package is important for the image of a product but there are also ethical concerns," says Senior Design Manager, Ulla Uimonen from Nokia. "Nokia produces hundreds of millions of phones with customer packages and their environmental impact should be minimized."
In an ideal world mobile phones would not need a package at all. Now they have to be protected for storage and transportation. However, with proper design and material choices the environmental impact of packaging can be reduced significantly. There are several players, setting various requirements and participating in package design. Designers, product managers, package automation representatives, sourcing and logistics representatives and package suppliers all want to set requirements for packaging. "However, I can see no contradiction between for instance design and environmental issues," says Ulla. "The general goal for design is efficiency, which can be achieved also for instance through compact packaging during transportation and storage. Efficiency usually means eco-efficiency as well. Environmentally sound materials are also beautiful and feel comfortable.”
Nokia uses recyclable materials, mainly wood fibers in its product packages. Coloring and patterning help cardboard to support products' image and their message. Some 35-100% of materials are also made of recycled fibers. Their availability vary from region to region.
New packaging materials are sought continuously. High quality packages can be made of several natural fibers. Flax packaging is already used, agricultural waste as a raw material as well as bioplastics are being studied. The use of agricultural waste brings challenges related to uniform quality and seasonal availability of raw materials, while bioplastics are not easily recycled. Bioplastics should be composted, and cannot therefore be recycled with other plastics. When mixed with other plastics, bioplastics are in fact more harmful than they are useful. Also the recycling of plastics is a challenge in general since there is no advanced recycling infrastructure in place yet. For instance by replacing some plastics with cardboard in Nokia's accessory packages the amount of plastic was decreased by 60%. Plastics cannot be replaced totally though, since an accessory should be visible and protected from dust.
"The size of the package has reached its minimum. Only by reducing the size of the accessories can the size of the package now be decreased," says Ulla. Nevertheless, there has been progress recently. While the Nokia 6210 package weighs 118g, the same size package for the Nokia 8310 weighs only about 92g.