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Sustainable Packaging

21 March, 2013

Packaging materials are used every day; to move raw materials to a manufacturer, bulk finished materials to a distributor and the final product to the consumer. The litter it creates ends up in our rivers, our soil and our air. One year from now, you will have thrown away approximately 200kg of packaging waste.

Although packaging materials are there to perform numerous tasks, such as, protecting a product from damage, or appealing to consumers, we have reached a point, where companies need to consider alternative solutions to packaging. This blog will explore some important aspects of sustainable packaging, from what it entails, to how it is perceived by consumers.

sustainable packaging

Sustainable Packaging 101:

Sustainable packaging relies on best engineering, energy management, materials science and life cycle thinking, in order to minimise the environmental impact of a product throughout its life-cycle. The aim of sustainable packaging is to:

• Reduce the amount of packaging
• Maximise use of renewable or reusable materials
• Use materials from certified, responsibly managed forests
• Reduce the flow of solid waste to landfill
• Reduce the costs associated with packaging
• Remove hazardous materials
• Ensure packaging is easy to recycle

recycling sign

Packaging Initiatives:

Many companies have revised their packaging standards and have implemented new designs and ideas that seek to limit waste and reduce cost. Several manufacturers are reducing or eliminating the amount of corrugated cardboard that is being used in packaging and replacing it with foam blocks at corners and using shrink-wrap around the product. Other examples of sustainable packing initiatives include:

• Bagasse biodegradable packaging: Bagasse is the pulp of sugarcane after the sucrose has been extracted. Until recently, the bagasse was destroyed after sugar production. Now, new methods allow it to be converted into lightweight, durable, biodegradable packaging.
• Mycelium: Mycelium is green packaging from mushrooms. Mycelium can be grown over a short period in custom-shaped plastic moulds. The material is safe enough to eat and is biodegradable, breaking down in less than one year.

bagasse

Excess Packaging Material:

When trying to reduce packaging, companies face one major challenge, adhering to environmental concerns whilst still being able to safeguard the product. Companies cannot automatically reduce packaging, as their products may not survive the handling that is required to transport it from one place to another. However, there is room for improvement in most cases.

Although, reducing excess materials is one effective way to start a green packaging initiative, it is still important to consider the environmental aspect with the remaining packaging.

landfil

Consumers:

Consumers are increasingly aware of environmental issues and the effort that manufacturers make with sustainable packaging. A survey by the Recycled Paperboard Alliance found that 61% of consumers are more inclined to purchase products from a company that uses recycled paperboard packaging.

The survey also found that along with minimal packaging, consumers like environmentally friendly packaging materials and like to support consumer packaged goods companies that bring sustainability to the production floor.

consumers

Why use sustainable packaging?

Whilst helping the environment is one benefit of eco-friendly packaging, packaging products using fewer and more sustainable materials gain additional rewards:

• Saving money:  Reducing excess packaging results in lighter, smaller shipments that cost less to transport. Greater quantities are able to fit on pallets, in shipping containers and in warehouses and retail shelves.
• Maintaining business: Switching to green materials can help meet or anticipate customer demands for eco-friendly suppliers.
• Attracting consumers: Many shoppers will choose environmentally friendly product over a conventional package.

boxes

It has become increasingly important to consider the amount of waste that is generated by packaging materials. The amount of sustainable options that are now available ensures you are able to choose the best solution for your company. The pressure for sustainable packaging will surely continue to increase, therefore the sooner you can implement a sustainable packaging solution within your organisation the better it will be for not only the environment, but your reputation and your bottom line as well.

 

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