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Special features: Environmentally-conscious packaging design

From packaging [to protect products] to packaging [to protect products and the environment] In pursuit of environmentally-consciousness, we challenged the conventional concept of packaging.

In 1992 when it launched the ECOSYS printer series, Kyocera Mita decided to introduce environmentally-conscious packages for all its products. One approach was to quit using plastic-based packaging materials that had been used for cushioning and fixation, and to replace them with paper-based materials such as corrugated cardboard and molded pulp. Our packaging design group has solved various technical problems and succeeded in using paper-based packaging materials for purposes that were once believed to be impossible. Our environmentally-conscious packaging aimed at resource saving has been highly regarded, leading to our being awarded a prize at the Japan Packaging Contest in 2010 for the seventh consecutive year. Here is an interview with our packaging designers, delighted at receiving the award, talking about their commitment to environmentally-conscious design and their future ambitions.

Photo of Toshiyuki Nakamura
Toshiyuki Nakamura

MD 22 Section, No. 21 Engineering Dept.
MFP2 Controlling Engineering Dept., Engineering Division

Joined 1985. Engaged in hardware design until transferred to the MD22 Section in 2002. Qualified as a packaging manager.

Photo of Atsushi Itano
Atsushi Itano

MD 22 Section, No. 21 Engineering Dept.
MFP2 Controlling Engineering Dept., Engineering Division

Joined 1980. Since then, has been engaged in packaging design to date. Qualified as a packaging manager.

Shift to paper-based packaging materials-Started from the birth of Ecosys

When did the attempt to shift to paper-based packaging start?

Itano:The attempt to shift all our packaging materials to paper-based materials began in 1992, when the Ecosys printer series was launched. Ecosys features "global environmentally-consciousness," and its debut was aimed at conveying our strong message that both MFPs and printers should remain environmentally-conscious throughout their lifecycles. Taking this opportunity, the top management instructed the Packaging Design Group (now the MD 22 Section) to make the packaging in all of our product development stages environmentally-conscious.

What is this "environmentally-conscious packaging" like?

Nakamura:Packaging has inherent purposes, such as "protecting products" and "improving efficiency in carriage and storage." Meanwhile, packages are items whose role ends when the product reaches the customer. Taking into account these characteristics, we should design packages that use the minimum necessary amount of materials with the minimum burden on the environment, and also that allow easy unpacking. This is what I believe to be environmentally-conscious packaging.

Itano:I think paper-based packaging materials such as corrugated cardboard are environmentally-conscious because the system for their collection and recycling has already been well established worldwide. Since 1992, we have committed ourselves to promoting the use of paper-based packaging materials as much as possible.

How have the policies for promoting environmentally-consciousness been established since then?

Nakamura:Besides encouraging the use of paper-based materials, we had policies to promote "proper design to avoid excessive packaging"; "consideration of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)"; "universal design allowing easy handling in distribution and unpacking"; and "improved loading efficiency." Based on these policies, our packaging standards have been constantly updated and are much stricter today than the ones in use around 1992.

Itano:One example is the tape used for fixing products. Initially, there were no rules, and the packaging designers were allowed to use as much tape as they liked. However, a target to limit the use of tape to five strips or less was set seven years ago, which has since been revised to three or less.


Nakamura:Every time the management sets such a target or gives a severer instruction, we get confused. But after striving to achieve each target through trial and error, we realize that things we used to think impossible end up becoming quite natural.

Itano:The number of strips of tape used may seem like a minor issue, but the more tape we use for packaging, the more hassle the customer faces when unpacking, and the more trash generated after unpacking. I believe the attitude of making all-out efforts in such a seemingly minor aspect leads to both overall energy saving and improved convenience for customers.

Feature 2
With sufficient knowledge of both packaging
materials and products, we were able to
overcome the problems.

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