Yes, you can finally use sustainable packaging for your business! Gone are the days when the only option was to use plastic packaging for your packaging needs.
In the past couple of years, the packaging industry shifted to more eco-friendly packaging as they heed the call for green packaging materials. From the production of paper packaging, recyclable packaging to biodegradable packaging - a variety of sustainable packaging options are now available in the market today and mother earth can't be happier with these new eco-friendly packaging materials!
In this article, we will help you figure out your sustainable packaging strategy to help you choose the best sustainable packaging solution for your business.
What is sustainable packaging?
According to minliving.com, "Sustainable Packaging is an earth-friendly alternative packaging solution that has been sourced and developed using sustainable materials to reduce carbon footprint and total adverse environmental impact." In short, sustainable packaging is a better alternative packaging material that's created with mother nature in mind.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a project of GreenBlue, offers criteria for sustainable packaging. Namely:
Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
Meets market criteria for performance and cost
Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles
Sustainable Packaging Examples
The good news in today's world is that there is a variety of environmentally friendly packaging available in the market today. To name a few, there's paper packaging, mushroom packaging, compostable packaging, and even, edible packaging! By switching to these alternatives and making it the "norm" in product packaging, it could alleviate the growing problem of packaging waste.
1. Paper Packaging
The most common packaging that we see today is paper packaging. Simply put, paper packaging is a type of packaging material that's made from paper. Examples of these are paper bags, corrugated cardboard boxes, cardboard or paper boards. It's versatile, lightweight, and could be cut and formed into customized packaging materials but is soluble in water. This is especially great for businesses who are just starting out since it is low-cost and readily available anywhere.
2. Mushroom Packaging
Who knew that mushrooms can be turned into a styrofoam alternative? Recently, mushroom packaging or also known as Fungi Packaging penetrated the packaging industry with its groundbreaking creation. In fact, the furniture giant, IKEA took notice of this innovation and announced that they will replace styrofoam packaging with mushroom packaging for their product packaging. This seems like a bold, eminent move since mushroom packaging is 100% biodegradable, insulating, flame-resistant, and can be formed into shapes according to a product.
This type of packaging is great for bulky, fragile items such as wine, furniture, and the like.
3. Compostable Packaging
Another sustainable product packaging present in the market today is compostable packaging. In the Sustainable Packaging in 2021 article, compostable packaging is defined as "a type of packaging which uses sustainable and eco-friendly materials that can compost in an industrial composting facility or at the comfort of a home compost bin." The nature of this type of packaging is that it can decompose within 90 days as opposed to plastic which takes centuries to break down and some still leave microplastics that harm the planet.
An example of compostable packaging is compostable mailers. With the increasing plastic packaging waste from online shopping, compostable mailers are one packaging solution that business owners can use to reduce plastic waste. For instance, minliving compostable mailers are 100% home compostable and reusable with their two adhesive tapes. By using minliving compostable mailers, there are two less plastic waste in the world or better yet, in the ocean.
4. Edible Packaging
Yep, you read it right. There's an emerging form of packaging called edible packaging. This is deemed as the future of food packaging since users can eat the food and eat the packaging too! Great examples of this would be KFC's edible bowls and the edible milk packaging. KFC's edible bowls were being tested in India as their way following the local plastic ban. They even came out with edible coffee cups to hold their coffee. Edible milk packaging, on the other hand, is an environmentally friendly film made from milk protein casein. It is an alternative to plastic covers and keeps the food fresh by blocking oxygen from getting into the food. This type of packaging is best for food packaging.
Sustainable Packaging Strategy
Now that we've discussed the different types of sustainable packaging, let's talk about setting up and implementing a sustainable packaging strategy.
A sustainable packaging strategy is "an approach that aims to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of packaging. This can involve assessing the lifecycle of packaging material options and the availability of waste and recycling infrastructure to process waste materials."
According to Stephanie Egee, the Sustainable Packaging Technologist of Anthesis, there are 3 phases divided into 7 key steps to setting and delivering a successful sustainable packaging strategy. These are:
Phase one: Analytics
Understand the landscape
Understand where you are and where you want to be
Define the scope of the strategy
Phase 2: Solution
4. Set sustainable packaging targets
5. Socialize the strategy
Phase 3: Implementation
6. Develop an action plan
7. Implementation, reporting and improvement
If this strategy is too long or tedious for you, you can simply use the Life Cycle Analysis which is used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product through its life cycle encompassing extraction and processing of the raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, recycling, and final disposal. This can be used when choosing a packaging material for your business.
We have come a long way from only having plastic as our primary form of product packaging. We are sure that as science or technology progresses, we will find more alternatives to conventional packaging. It is up to us, the business owners and consumers, to do our part in realizing a plastic free planet by becoming aware of our resources and choosing to switch to these sustainable packaging alternatives.