Today, “sustainability” has become a trendy buzzword in much the same way that the word “organic” flooded media and marketing a few years ago. Sustainability is also a polite word for “survival.” Corporate and planetary existence is at stake as company boardrooms navigate between responsible manufacturing and their own financial viability past dinner.
Consumer Electronics is not immune from this tug of war. Indeed, it has become an essential element in the business plans of many forward-thinking companies. Major players, including Samsung, Apple and Microsoft have “gone green” with their packaging and other aspects of their business. We are closer to the beginning than the end of the sustainability-transition. Our industry needs to set an example by making sustainability and minimizing waste a priority. The media should reward advances in sustainable manufacturing and packaging as well as amplifiers, displays, and cables.
While Austere is a small company compared to the industry giants, we are proud to be the home theater accessory manufacturer in the forefront on this issue. In fact, our passion for sustainability really began with packaging. Our boxes are designed for re-use in the home or office. Reflecting the Austere sense of elegance and deliberate design our boxes have many high visibility uses including desk-caddies and gift packaging. And that has become a big part of our brand identity. Other efforts include limiting the use of plastics in our packaging as much as possible and making them more recyclable.
This is an evolving pursuit. Flexibility is a must. For example, soon after we launched our first Austere products we changed our packaging in a significant way. We originally had an extra layer of recycled metallic cardboard in-box to give a stunning “reveal” experience to the customer. We realized that this step was just adding waste, so we pivoted.
We are eager to share the insights we’ve gained from our experience and believe they can be useful to many CE companies. According to Health Magazine’s April 2022 issue, paper accounts for 14% of total trash generation and has the highest recycling rate of all packaging materials at 81%! This validates Austere’s policy of using paper packaging for all its products.
But there’s a reason plastic is so ubiquitous in packaging. It’s strong, light, durable and cheap. Unfortunately, it is expensive to recycle, and made even less recyclable by the way it is most often used in the label stickers, colored plastics and printed elements used in packaging. This is a big reason for the shocking statistic from National Geographic that an astonishing 91% of plastic doesn’t get recycled. Recycling companies often opt for the landfill rather than the expense. So, instead of using stickers for promotion or information on plastic packaging, it’s better just to print directly on the plastic.
Ink is much more easily recycled than the gummy glue used on stickers. So, the “labels” on Austere’s new “Clean & Protect” bottles are printed directly on the plastic.
And, yes, we know that the plastic bottle needs to be an interim step to another, “greener,” material. We are also looking for other materials for our currently plastic “hang tags.” Our goal remains 100% recyclability in packaging.
Innovative recyclables also extend to products themselves. There are many new materials for CE makes to consider. Research and Development lunchrooms should all have signs that say: “Think Sustainable!” We must accept that, like all R&D projects, not all the ideas are going to work out. At Austere, we thought we had a soy-based sustainable material for use in cables. Then we discovered that when heated, the material produced an odor irresistible to rodents. Back to the lab!
“Sustainability” means survivability for us all. We need to muster the efforts of manufacturers, retailers, media, and consumers. In our willingness as an industry to lead the way and change for the better, we will not only help save the planet, but also solidify the brand loyalty of our sustainability-focused CE customers.