The Importance of Progressing Toward Sustainable Packaging

What Is Sustainable Packaging

The purpose of sustainable packaging is to alter packaging and manufacturing which results in improved overall sustainability. This process involves decreasing both the environmental impact and ecological footprint of product packaging. But the fun doesn't stop there, sustainable packing involves the entire supply chain: from basic function to marketing, and recycling.  Additionally, an eco-cost to value ratio is used to determine how effective the sustainable packaging is. The overarching goal of sustainable packaging is to improve the long-term viability and quality of life for humans while also increasing the longevity of natural ecosystems. It is important to note that sustainable packaging must meet the functional and economic needs of the present. All without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Sustainable Packaging Criteria

Sustainable packaging is a relatively new addition to the environmental considerations for packaging. It requires additional analysis and documentation to develop package design, choice of materials, processing, and life-cycle. Let's get his straight, this is not just a vague "green movement". But something that individuals and companies have been trying to include for years. Individuals and companies using sustainable packing must follow a strict criterion which includes: a reduced carbon footprint, using more recycled materials, and reusing more package components. Let us remember, sustainability is not necessarily an end state but rather a continuing process of improvement.

The following lists include both a general summary of encompassing criterion and a more specified list.

The Encompassing Three Ideals: 

  1. Functional: Product protection, safety, and regulatory compliance
  2. Cost effective: If it is too expensive, it is unlikely to be used
  3. Longevity: Support long-term human and ecological health

The Specified Ideals: 

Use of Minimal Materials: Reduced packaging, reduced layers of packaging, lower mass, lower volume

  • Logistics Efficiency: Enablement of efficient transportation
  • Energy Efficiency: Total energy content and usage and the use of renewable energy
  • Recycled Content: As available and functional
  • Recyclability: Recovery value and using materials which are frequently and easily recycled
  • Reusable Packaging: Repeated reuse of package
  • Renewable Resources: Use of renewable resources in packaging
  • Safe Materials: Use of biodegradable and compostable materials which are toxin free
  • Water Use: Water reuse, treatment, and waste management
  • Design: Physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  • Follow the requirements of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference

Environmental Impact of Sustainable Packaging

Here is a list of the top 9 ways that sustainable packing can help preserve our environment. 

REDUCES YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT:

Eco-friendly packaging is better for the environment as it is made of recycled waste material, reducing consumption of resources. 

EASY DISPOSAL:

The type of packaging used may vary but it should either be compostable or recyclable. If the packaging is clearly labeled recyclable packaging then it can be thrown into your recycling bin for re-use.

BIODEGRADABLE:

Green packaging not only reduces your carbon footprint and environmental impact but is also beneficial after it has served its purpose as the packaging materials are biodegradable.

VERSATILE AND FLEXIBLE:

Eco-friendly packaging is pretty versatile and can be re-used and re-purposed in most major industries that involve packaging. Whatever the need is, there will be an eco-friendly type of packaging that will meet needs and reduce costs.

NO HARMFUL PLASTICS:

Traditional packaging methods and materials contribute to global warming and other environmental issues. Using eco-friendly packaging allows for reduced amounts of plastic used. Using non-sustainable petrochemical resources which are a part of all traditional plastics requires a lot of energy. Petrochemical products usually tend to litter public places and have been linked with health problems when used with food.

REDUCING SHIPPING COSTS:

Reduced shipping costs reduce the amount of raw materials used to package products. And remember, less packing materials means less weight which saves money and resources.

CAN HELP SAVE MONEY:

Paper shredders are a great way to properly discard of any waste packaging, while also making it easier for the packaging to bio-degrade. 

EXPANDS YOUR CUSTOMER BASE:

The demand for sustainable eco-friendly products grows every day. All adults who were born after 1990 prefer to go eco-friendly and sustainability when it comes to making their buying decisions. Going green will attract more customers that will keep on returning depending on your attitude to the environment.

IT CAN BE REDUCED, REUSED AND RECYCLED SUSTAINABLY:

Most of the materials used should follow the 3 basic R’s of sustainability.

Ideas on How to Make Sustainable Packaging

Optimized Usage of Materials:

Optimized usage of materials includes lower volume and mass, decreased packaging layers, and the packaging itself reduced. TOPS Pro and Cape Systems are both systems that assist in determining the optimal combination of packaging material and box size. To ensure that your newly designed package and its contents get to their destination safe, let's think sustainable. Instead of using traditional bubble wrap, you should use air cushion rolls. They are just as cost-effective and require less storage space. 

Use Materials that are Recyclable and Biodegradable:

Materials such as cardboard, paperboard, and plastic can be reconstituted, and create new items. Both recyclable and recycled materials come from different sources. Additionally, all of these materials can be easily adapted to packaging. Following are some of the materials that are biodegradable and recyclable.

Cornstarch : 

Corn starch-made items are biodegradable. And they are ideal for all types of food packaging. These packages can also be sent via post as well. To top it off, packages made out of cornstarch have limited or no negative impact on the environment.

Cardboard and Paper: 

Both are biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable. Paperboards are lightweight and strong. Their uses range from packaging medicines to frozen food to cosmetics. 

Biodegradable Plastic: 

When exposed to sunlight biodegradable plastic decomposes. It can also be used to make envelopes that are used for bulk mailing. Biodegradable plastic is a viable and practical alternative to traditional plastics.

Bubble wrap:  

Bubble wrap made out of recycled polyethylene is fully degradable. And of course, they help to keep your product safe.

Use Innovative and Unique Materials:

If you cannot avoid pictures or texts on your packages, then use inks made from milk proteins or food. Try to avoid using chemicals which can cause harm to the environment. Instead, use soy inks. They are much more sustainable. While unlike petroleum-based inks, they come from a renewable source. And they release zero VOCs. Clean ink makes the recycling process much easier.

Reduced Usage of Energy: 

Plastic packaging can help with sustainability. First of all, it takes less energy to manufacture when compared to glass, aluminum, or steel. Plastic is also lightweight, which decreases the amount of energy needed for delivery. For example, 10 gallons of juice can be stored in a 2-pound plastic container. Lighter packaging amounts to less fuel in shipping which helps to save energy.

Minimalist Packaging:

Using a big box for a small item makes no sense. To boot, it is a total waste of space and materials. Instead, develop and create custom packaging boxes for your products. This will help save materials and space through the entire distribution process. A minimalist packaging will not only set a brand apart but will also be appealing to the eco-conscious consumers as well.

Increased Reuse and Less Spoilage:

Instead of just throwing away your bags, take it with you the next time you visit the supermarket. Reusability of packaging can help with sustainable packaging. Reusable bottles for beer, soda, and milk also make for environmental consideration when it comes to packaging. Creating higher quality bags and boxes encourage re-use, rather than being tossed away shortly after opening your product. This helps customers remember a brand and product every time the packaging is re-used.

Cost of Sustainable Packaging

Unfortunately, the process of engineering more environmentally acceptable packages can be more expensive. But again, this statement can be misleading. Some companies claim that environmental packaging is cost effective. While other companies complain that by using materials that are recycled/recyclable and/or less damaging to the environment can be more expensive. One thing to consider is that any new package design requires an additional expense in its initial development. But these expenses can be recouped over time by using sustainable packaging. Fortunately, in today's world in tightening legislation, and changes in major retailer demand, the question is no longer "if" products and packaging should become more sustainable, but how-to and how soon.

Conclusion

The world's population continues to grow while the world's resources continue to dwindle. We are currently standing on the edge of a sustainable world and burning through the Earths resources. Here at Green and Growing, we strive to deliver our readers with ideas and subjects in which they can get behind and support. It is going to take all of us to make a difference in the world. All of these changes can seem small, but if a lot of people make small changes we will make a large impact on the world. And the sustainable packaging movement is just another great way that we can decrease our impact on the environment. So take the time and look around you, support your local retailers who use sustainable packaging. Let's roll up our sleeves and make a difference today.

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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