What is the sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging is becoming a higher priority for both brands and consumers - more now than ever before.
McDonald's announced its packaging will be 100% renewable and recycled by 2025.
Millennials are pushing brands to be more socially and environmentally responsible.
It's clear that the term ‘eco-friendly packaging’ is clearly more than a buzzword.
In fact, implementing eco packaging in your brand’s operations is no longer an option - it’s a necessity.
Many of us were brought up with the phrase 'reduce, reuse, recycle'in our vocabulary. Today, it's important to your business that you reflect these same values. Not only to help the environment, but also increase brand loyalty amongst eco-conscious consumers.
In this article, you’ll see:
What is packaging sustainability and sustainable packaging design?
Examples of eco-friendly packaging solutions
Material technology’s influence on sustainable packaging solutions
Material science and packaging engineering developing at an incredible speed. As a result, more eco friendly packaging options are on the market that can take care of a wide range of products.
There have also been many breakthroughs in plant-based packagingand biodegradable plastic packaging. This also means that it’s getting easier for your brand to reduce its carbon footprint.
Plus, with the public more and more aware of the waste caused by bad packaging, wasteful brands are being named and shamed.
So let’s dive into the world of eco-friendly packaging, and see it’s benefits for your brand. But before we go too deep, what does packaging sustainability actually mean?
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging is packaging that, over time, reduces its environmental footprint.
This can happen in a number of ways:
Ingredients: Using raw 100% recycled or raw materials
Production process: By minimising the production process, supply chain and carbon footprint
Reusability: Creating a circular economy around the packaging, extending its lifecycle and usability.
It’s simple to say that sustainable packaging is entirely about the environment. It also should take into consideration economic and social factors.
For example, plant-based packaging may seem like a viable option. But quite often that means clearing endangered rainforests to grow crops.
Eco packaging needs to consider the economic factor. It needs to be priced competitively over traditional oil-based/single-use packaging options.
So yes, the definitions can get a bit messy at times!
Labelling something ‘eco-friendly’ doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable. Similarly, labelling something as sustainable doesn’t mean that it’s ethical.
But here's what's most important if your brand is considering a change:
Do you own research.
Definitions aren’t always black and white. It pays to ask your packaging manufacturer a number of questions.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is a great resource. Here, you can see the certifications of certain brands and products. It's also a great way to further your knowledge of recyclable packaging in general.
There are also other bodies, like the Forest Stewardship Council. They ensure that any wood-based products (like cardboard) are made from sustainably-sourced forests.
Eco-friendly packaging, coupled with sustainable package design, is a potent combination. These characteristics can be a great way to set your brand above your competitors.
What is sustainable packaging design?
Sustainable packaging design is designing product packaging with the main purpose of doing as little harm to the environment as possible.
This can be achieved by using recycled material. You can also do this by designing your packaging with another purpose in mind.
For example, this shopping bag from H&M that transforms into a clothes hanger.
Not only are these bags made from less material than H&M’s traditional plastic bag, but the paper is 80% recycled.
H&M knows its audience is people between 18 and 35. They know that these people care about the environment.
H&M know their customers appreciate brands with eco-friendly and reusable packaging solutions.
Therefore, sustainable packaging design with reusability in mind increases brand loyalty amongst their audience.
Why packaging sustainability is important
There’s no need to go into detail about why sustainable packaging is important. If you’re reading this article, you know it’s crucial.
If you still need convincing, take a look at these tweet directed at Amazon's packaging:
But the push toward packaging sustainability isn’t just from the end consumer.
Large corporations like Unilever Australia have recently put pressure on the Australian government. Unilever has demanded the government do more in the plastic pollution battle.
And if corporations of this size can put the heat on governments, it means:
Consumers want to associate with brands that are environmentally focused
Large corporations are spearheading the initiative to help their public image
Smaller and medium brands will be forced to implement sustainability in their packaging
But packaging sustainability doesn’t mean you have to invest a load of money. Nor does it mean a compromise on form or function.
Read below to see the best eco-friendly packaging materials on the market.
Eco-friendly packaging materials
Many people consider humble cardboard as an environmentallyfriendly material.
It's organic, ethical and sustainable and reusable packaging solutions out there.
Corrugated cardboard is the go-to solutions for packaging sustainability because they're organic.
Cardboard boxes come in many shapes and sizes. But another one of cardboard’s strengths is...well, its strength.
Double and triple-walled cardboard boxes can hold an incredible amount of weight. It's also highly resistant to blunt and piercing forces. So cardboard can keep your product secure throughout the shipping process.
A simple cardboard box is also over 80% biodegradable.
If it isn’t segregated when your customer throws it in the bin, it easilybreaks down in landfill.
And if the material that cardboard is made from (paper pulp) isn’t already recycled, the raw materials used to make cardboard (trees) is managed incredibly well.
But there’s more to eco-friendly packaging than cardboard.
What happens when you need sustainable packaging that’s certified to come in contact with food?
Well, take a look at Snact fruit bars.
As a company, Snact is all about the reduction of waste. For starters, the product that they sell is made from banana peel - the perfectly edible part of the food that’s nearly always thrown out.
Secondly, snact worked with package-suppliers.com to create packaging that’s 100% compostable.
Throw your wrapper into the garden and watch it decompose.
It worth noting, that single-use packaging isn’t the bad guy here. Single-use packaging that’s oil-based and ends up in landfill is the culprit.
Single-use plastics are made from red algae. This is a naturally occurring substance that’s available in abundance. This packaging is suited to pasta, cereals and other dry foods.
With a little more refinement, materials like this can also battle single-use products. Straws and spoons (perhaps even reusable packaging) may soon be made from organic matter.
The term ‘single use’ isn’t always bad. There are though, some phrases that have negative connotations.
Plant-based packaging solutions
Sometimes called bio-based plastics or corn plastic, these packaging solutions are made from an organic compound. This compound will, over time, decompose in about any environment that it’s put in.
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a plastic substitute that’s made from fermented plant starch. More and more countries banning plastic bags at grocery stores. As a result, PLA looks set to become the next-best option to single-use plastic bags.
PLA can also be shaped into a more durable form of plastic packaging, used in Packhelp’s Bio polymailers.
Bio Polymailers can be used to send items that don’t need the protection of a box. For example, a simple t-shirt or other clothing that’s durable.
A Bio polymailer can be used to send products where the box itself is an asset - a pair of shoes, for example.
Design features like a resealable flap mean that a Bio polymailer can be used again if need be. This increases its versatility and lifespan, keeping it out of landfill for longer.
Consumer behaviour & sustainable packaging
Consumer trends are arguably one of the reasons many more brands are using eco-friendly packaging.
With more being done to battle climate change, taking care of the earth has never been more important.
For many larger brands, going ‘environmentally friendly’ is nothing more than a PR stunt. We consume with our eyes and a simple recycling logo doesn’t always carry a lot of weight.
Sustainability and environmentalism aren’t at the forefront of your brand’s defining features.
But sustainable packaging can give you an edge of your competition.
Consider this situation for a moment: