With so much focus on product packaging finding its way into the world’s oceans and piling up in our landfills, sustainable packaging is at the forefront of consumer consciousness. It’s difficult to imagine what life on earth will look like in two to three hundred years. Although it’s hard to predict what the future holds, one thing is certain: billions of plastic bottles, containers, and boxes will still be sitting in landfills and spilling out into our oceans. A typical plastic bottle takes 450 years to fully
With this concern for our environment, the demand for eco-friendly packaging alternatives has resulted in an expansion of options for product manufacturers. In this post, we’ll explore what makes packaging sustainable and why it’s so important. We’ll also highlight companies who have made sustainable packaging a priority and showcase popular eco-friendly packaging options to consider for your products.
What is Sustainable Packaging?
Sustainable packaging is generally defined as packaging that can be produced without negatively impacting the environment. Bioplastics are a good example of eco-conscious packaging. They’re completely biodegradable and made from renewable, plant-based sources. In contrast, traditional plastics are made from non-renewable petroleum, don’t degrade for centuries, and leach potentially toxic chemicals into the soil. When compared to their oil-based brethren, bioplastics have a much lighter impact on the planet.
Why Is Sustainable Packaging Important?
Environmentally friendly packaging options have never been more needed. The impact of plastic-based packaging on marine life and its contribution to the country’s overflowing landfills has been well-documented in recent years. In fact, according to data from the EPA, containers and packaging accounted for 30,530,000 tons of landfill waste in 2018. By creating product packaging that’s both biodegradable and easier to recycle, product manufacturers can create a greener, more sustainable way of doing business.
Sustainable Packaging Design
With advances in technology, environmentally friendly packaging can conform to any design specifications you’d expect from more traditional product packaging options. Sustainably sourced, post-consumer cardboard packaging performs the exact same way that virgin material would. And bioplastics have nearly identical properties to their petroleum-based counterparts.
It’s also important to let consumers know if you choose to transition to sustainable packaging options. Eco-friendly and renewable packaging can be a valuable selling point you don’t want to pass up on.
4 Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Packaging Examples
Here are a few examples of companies doing things right. Their innovative use of easily recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials helps create less waste.
1. Celestial Seasonings
This national brand isn’t just known for their high-powered Lemon and Raspberry Zinger teas sporting one of the cutest bears in the business. They’re also a leader in eco-conscious product packaging. Celestial Seasonings creates their tea boxes from 35% post-consumer recycled paperboard. The interior freshness wrapper is made from biodegradable, natural fibers. By design, their tea bags don’t have a staple, tag, or individual wrapper. The plastic freshness wrap they do use on the exterior of their packages is super thin to reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Attitude is a well-known body care and cleaning products company with an eco-minded focus. Their bulk packaging product line features hand soaps, shampoos, and a variety of their most popular cleaning products in larger, fully recyclable containers. They’re made using a cardboard exterior shell with a plastic interior liner and spigot. Their innovative design uses up to 80% less plastic than other similarly sized containers.
This UK-based chocolate company was the first to convert all of their product packaging materials to sources that were either recyclable or biodegradable. For Montezuma’s, that was no small task, but they have successfully undertaken it. Their chocolate buttons come in glass jars, and the rest of their extensive product line comes in recyclable cardboard containers. They only use metallic inks, so even their ink is recyclable!
4. Boxed Water
Plastic water bottles are a notorious source of plastic waste. Boxed Water is trying to change that with their fully recyclable cardboard water boxes. Their containers are made from 92% plant-based sources. You can recycle them just as you would a cardboard milk box. If they don’t make it to the recycle bin, they’ll biodegrade much faster and more completely than traditional plastic water bottles.
Types of Sustainable Packaging Materials
There are quite a few sustainable packaging options, ranging from common to exotic. We’ll cover some old standbys as well as some new upstarts.
Plastic freshness wraps and seals can be made from sources other than petroleum. Corn, algae, or other biomasses have been used successfully to mimic the qualities of plastics, but with the biodegradability of organic materials. One example of a manufacturer using this process is TIPA. Their bioplastics are used in a number of food and fashion product packaging applications. Their shelf-stable packaging is 100% biodegradable and made from renewable sources. TerraSkin is an ideal labeling material to compliment bioplastic packaging. This eco-friendly label material is made primarily from calcium carbonate, one of the earth’s most abundant mineral sources.
This humble packaging material has a lot going for it. If the wood fibers come from sustainably managed forests, cardboard is an eco-friendly, sustainable, and affordable product packaging material. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies sources that produce wood pulp-based products according to a set of published sustainability standards. Cardboard is fully recyclable and 80% biodegradable. Its strength and durability make it an easy choice for many food, cosmetic, and beverage packaging applications. To accompany cardboard-based packaging, consider using 100% post-consumer waste recycled Kraft paper labels. A Kraft paper label paired with a cardboard container adds a finished, organic look to product packaging.
Considerably more expensive than cardboard, but equally environmentally sound, wood can be used as an exterior packaging material for a range of products. Wood-based containers are both biodegradable and easily reused for storage or decoration by the consumer.
Unlike plastics and paper, glass never loses quality during the recycling process. It can be recycled again and again to infinity. If it does end up in a landfill, it’s inert, so it won’t leach anything nasty out into the soil. Glass makes a solid choice for packaging liquids, creams, and gels.
Choosing eco-friendly packaging for your products is a win-win. By using sustainable materials, you’re playing an active role in creating a healthier, cleaner planet. Eco-friendly packaging also offers a competitive edge, making your products more attractive to environmentally conscious consumers.
You might also like:
- Beginner’s Guide to Packaging and Labeling
- Eco-Friendly Packing Design Ideas
- 10 Characteristics of a Well-Designed Product Label