The sustainable movement has made its way into housewares, as designers and manufacturers seek ways to make products perform well for current use while not cluttering the environment for future generations.
Research firm Mintel Reports of Chicago conducted a study and found that 12 percent of consumers said they purchase ``green'' products all the time. Folks ages 35-64 are buying the most.
``The important takeaway is that the green consumer is a very committed consumer. They follow through on purchase promises,'' said Mintel research director David Lockwood in a March 11 presentation.
Designers and manufacturers alike spoke about the issue during the International Home & Housewares Show, held March 11-13 in Chicago.
``We made our plastics too well,'' said John Caruso, associate professor of industrial design at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, during a March 12 presentation. ``We can no longer live in a throw-away society. Can you make it better with less? Can you make it more sustainable?''
For some plastics manufacturers, the move toward sustainability is gaining steam.
``We're also doing a lot with recycled plastics, both post-consumer and post-industrial,'' said Steve Cramer, vice president of product development for Pacific Market International LLC, the Seattle-based parent of consumer goods producer Aladdin. ``Everything that we consider recycled has to have at least 25 percent post-consumer in it.''
The company has some key suppliers of recycled plastic, and always is looking for more, Cramer said.
``We intend to be very, very strong in sustainability. We believe that it's important to stand up and be counted as people that are concerned about Earth's resources and our longevity.''
Aladdin also is phasing out PVC by the end of 2007, a move linked to its sustainability strategy. But not all plastics producers agree. Neotech Industries Inc. in Waterford, Mich., for example, is converting some of its stackable Neopod storage and display products from polypropylene to PVC.
At Knoend LLC, officials introduced lite2go, a lamp that eliminates packaging because the package itself becomes the shade for the light bulb and fixture contained within. The product is made from PP.
``It's such a durable product and it can convert into something else,'' said Ivy Chuang, who is founder of San Francisco-based Knoend and a product designer.
``We have been targeting the environmentally friendly customization concept.''
A new product called Ecopod made its debut at the show. With parts molded from high-impact polystyrene, officials are hoping the home or office recycling center will become a consumer necessity.
On Ecopod's Web site, visitors can calculate how much energy they can save or how much their recycling is worth, in terms of dollars.
``Innovative people drove the demand for this,'' said Troy Hoidal, founder of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Ecopod. ``The people have demanded this change.''
Ideally, Hoidal said, his firm wants to move into bioplastics for the Ecopod. The recycling system was designed by DesignworksUSA Inc. in Newbury Park, Calif.
Environmental consciousness and product sustainability is becoming more of an issue for growing countries, including India.
``We are paying more attention to protecting the environment,'' said Jaswanth Soundarapandian, Chennai-based regional director with the Plastics Export Promotion Council of India. ``We work with other organizations to educate manufacturers and consumers in this early stage [of plastic packaging consumption]. Bags of thicknesses less than 20 microns are not allowed to enter the market. We also educate consumers to dispose [of] plastic bags properly.''
Plastics News staff reporter Nina Ying Sun contributed to this report.