Packaging accounts for one-third of U.S. waste, and that amount could increase as the popularity of online shopping grows. Now, though, consumers are starting to look for eco-friendly packaging options. Any company that ships products should consider using this type of packaging since it has several advantages.
What is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
First, it helps to understand what defines eco-friendly packaging.
This is also sometimes referred to as green packaging, environmentally-friendly packaging, or sustainable packaging. Whatever it’s called, this is packaging that has a minimal impact on the environment.
You can achieve this by using packaging that’s:
- Made from recycled materials
- Recyclable or reusable
- Biodegradable, or preferably compostable
- Manufactured through low impact means
For example, most plastics would not fall into the eco-friendly category. On the other hand, some plastic bags are now made with biodegradable plastic.
Types of Eco-Friendly Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging falls into different categories, depending on the type of material. Some items may also fall into more than one category.
Paper packaging is one example of biodegradable packaging, but it’s not the only option.
Biodegradable materials are those that can be broken down by living organisms in a short time, around a year or less. This includes paper, non-laminated cardboard, processed bamboo, and banana leaves.
If you want to make a plastic-conscious packaging choice, you can even find biodegradable plastic.
You can also find packing peanuts made from corn starch, or plant starch material (PSM). These are biodegradable and a great alternative to traditional Styrofoam packing peanuts.
Compostable materials go even further than biodegradable packaging. As well as breaking down naturally, compostable items return nutrients to the soil.
Some of these materials are also considered natural packaging. Coconut husks and banana leaves both falls into this category.
Another difference is that biodegradable materials are expected to break down in a landfill. Compostable packaging, though, needs a specific environment to decompose. Once in that environment, the resulting compost is very useful for agriculture.
Replenishing the soil is important in order to meet growing demands for food production. This makes using compostable materials a great option if you can find a way to do it.
Recyclable or Reusable
Other packaging materials can be recycled or reused. This may not be as beneficial as biodegrading, but it’s still more environmentally-friendly than single-use materials.
Packaging that can be recycled includes paper, cardboard, glass, some types of plastic, and aluminium.
Many of these items can be reused before recycling. Glass jars are good for storage or drinking containers as long as they’re not broken. Cardboard boxes can be used multiple times.
It also helps to buy packaging made from recycled materials. This is something to consider if you buy shipping boxes or wholesale paper bags.
Eco-Friendly Food Packaging
You can also find eco-friendly food packaging. This includes packaging for products you might buy at the store, as well as take-out and delivery options.
Some restaurants that offer takeout now use cardboard boxes without bleach. If they want brand information on the side, they use vegetable-based ink.
Some companies are also experimenting with paper beverage containers. Others use even more innovative technologies like plastic wrap made from algae.
Benefits of Eco-Friendly Packaging
Switching to eco-friendly packaging has significant benefits for the planet but also for your company.
Reduces Carbon Footprint
From an environmental perspective, this is far better than traditional packaging materials. These materials break down more quickly in landfills, although ideally, they won’t end up in landfills at all.
If your packaging is made from recycled materials, the manufacturing impact is also significantly lower than when creating brand-new boxes or bags.
Lowers Shipping Costs
In some cases, if you use eco-friendly packaging, your packaging may end up being lighter than with traditional materials. This costs less to ship.
Another environmental benefit of lighter packages is that they need less fuel for transportation.
You may also find ways to use fewer packaging materials, which cuts down on your packaging costs overall.
Another benefit to eco-friendly packaging is that it’s versatile and flexible. This packaging can be reused or re-purposed in multiple industries. Whether you’re shipping food, cosmetics, medicine, or electronics, you can find an eco-friendly option that works.
It’s also important to note that eco-friendly materials can be both strong and durable. With options increasing all the time, you can find ways to transport even chemicals or acids in an eco-friendly way.
Stay Current with Regulations
Some countries are already taking a hard stance on packaging materials.
In Australia, the government has required that by 2025 all food packaging must be reusable, compostable, or recyclable. Many countries and some U.S. states are also banning plastic bags.
This means that even if current laws don’t require eco-friendly packaging, it could becoming. Companies that get ahead of the curve will have an advantage.
Improve Your Image
Finally, moving to the package that’s good for the environment will help your brand image.
Consumers are more environmentally-conscious than ever. They want to feel good about their purchase without worrying about damages to the environment. They also care more about buying from companies that support their values.
In fact, some people might even decide not to buy from you if you don’t have this option. If they can buy a similar product from a company that offers eco-friendly packaging, many times they’ll go for the sustainable option.
Switching to eco-friendly packaging lets your customers know that you share their concerns about the impact of your products. It may even boost your sales.
Many Benefits to Sustainable Choices in Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging has come a long way. These days, it’s more than just cardboard or paper.
If you’re ready to make the switch, focus on packaging materials that will biodegrade quickly, or that can be recycled or composted. When you do, you’ll help both the environment and your company.
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