Retail Packaging Environmental Issues and Sustainability


Plastics are a mixed bag. Some are better than others, but in general are not sustainable. All plastics are made with petroleum, off gas and leach into materials (including water and foods) they come into contact with over time. The FDA call plastic packaging that comes into contact with food, "indirect food additives". Plastics do migrate chemicals into materials that they touch. So it is important to be aware when designing packaging that involves plastics, that over time they could eventually become a part of what is packaged.

Plastic is not sustainable and never recycles, but instead down cycles. A plastic container that is recycled will never become a plastic container again, but instead could become a plastic bag or in other cases turned into fibers to make clothing (e.g. Patagonia). Much of the plastic used in clamshell packaging of products in your stores involve PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). PVC cannot be recycled and is considered a contaminant by most global environmental organizations/governments. PVC is linked to ear, kidney and lung cancers and has a safe exposure level of zero, but it is a strong plastic and many retailers like Wal-Mart demand it to avoid shrinkage (theft). Please avoid PVC at all costs. There are other ways to make sturdy packaging that are safer. Use our packaging guidelines previously stated as a starting point to begin exploring.


This color system from Pantone, Inc. contains “safe” ("spot") colors. A number of colors were removed from existing PANTONE coated palette as they contain Section 313 – listed chemicals as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The toxicity problems mainly lie in the warm reds that contain Barium, which, if inhaled can lead to lung irritation and have also been know to cause heart problems.

PANTONE Colors From Standard Palette Used For Safe Palette:

  • 123-126
  • 1765-1815
  • 490-495
  • 136-140
  • 183-188
  • 497-501
  • 1365-140
  • 5189-195
  • 4975-5005
  • 150-154
  • 211-216
  • 504-409
  • 1555-1615
  • 436-440
  • 5185-5215
  • 163-168
  • 443-447
  • 5535-5565
  • 1625-168
  • 5455-457
  • 560-565
  • 170-175
  • 4625-4645
  • 567-572
  • 176-181
  • 469-472

This palette in Adobe® Illustrator® contains four-color process (CMYK) simulations of these solid colors. The actual colors can be viewed in the PANTONE® Formula Guide - Solid Coated.

The CMYK values in this Adobe Illustrator palette are compatible with SWOP printing inks at 175-line screen and standard process printing screen angles.

PANTONE Colors displayed here may not match PANTONE-identified standards. Consult current PANTONE Color Publications for accurate color.

PANTONE and other Pantone, Inc. trademarks are the property of Pantone, Inc. © Pantone, Inc., 2000.

Pantone, Inc. is the copyright owner of color data and/or software which are licensed to Adobe Systems Incorporated to distribute for use only in combination with Adobe Illustrator.

PANTONE Color Data and/or Software shall not be copied onto another disk or into memory unless as part of the execution of Adobe Illustrator.

Adobe and Illustrator are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the USA and/or other countries.

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