We all know that choosing sustainable packaging over plastic packaging is good for the environment and a smart decision for businesses. But why is this? And what are the benefits of choosing recyclable, sustainable packaging?
In this article we’ll dig into what sustainable packaging is, what the advantages are, and why it’s crucial that businesses adopt environmentally friendly packaging into their day-to-day operations.
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging contains and stores products throughout their lifecycle, whilst also having the least amount of impact as possible on the environment. Often called green packaging or eco packaging, this type of packaging is considered sustainable when the full lifecycle is assessed to see if there is negligible impact on the environment.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition defined the vision for sustainable packaging, publishing a widely accepted list of criteria. To be classed as sustainable, packing must:
- Be beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
- Meet market criteria for performance and cost
- Be sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
- Use renewable or recycled source materials
- Be manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
- Be made from materials that are healthy for humans and the environment throughout the life cycle
- Be physically designed to optimise materials and energy
- Be effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles
The types of sustainable packaging
It may seem that the above criteria would make it difficult to create different types of sustainable packaging. However, with the detrimental effects of the climate crisis becoming more prominent, it’s crucial for businesses to strive to adopt eco-friendly practices, including finding the best packaging.
Here’s a list of a few sustainable packaging types that currently exist:
- Compostable or biodegradable packaging: this type of sustainable packaging consists of natural based materials that can be broken down in an eco-friendly manner when left to decay in the right environment (typically soil).
- Recycled packaging: recycled packaging gives another life to plastics that already exist on the planet, conserving raw materials and reducing how much existing plastics go into landfills.
- Cardboard packaging: perhaps the most popular form of sustainable packaging at the moment, cardboard and corrugated cardboard packaging are fully recyclable, and can be used over and over again as long as they’re recycled correctly.
- Alternative packaging: these types of packaging are made from alternative materials such as cellulose, mushroom and cornstarch, making them biodegradable because of their natural properties. Each has their own advantages, such as mushroom packaging being a strong alternative for styrofoam.
- Reusable packaging: this type of sustainable packaging allows the consumer to upcycle the product container into something completely different, such as a crate that can be turned into a planter.
- Returnable packaging: some merchants are now using packaging that can be returned, often offering incentives to consumers that return the packaging for further use.
5 benefits of sustainable packaging
1. Eliminating waste going to landfill and oceans
A study by the European Parliament estimated that in 2015 7.2 million tonnes of plastic ended up in landfill (in Europe); 79% of this is sent to oceans, and less than 10% is recycled. Of course, a lot of the waste that goes to landfill is made up of plastic packaging. By using recycled or sustainable packaging, you’ll be reducing the amount of plastic waste that goes to landfill and oceans.
2. Reduces your carbon footprint
By lowering the amount of plastic packaging that's used in your products, you can lower your CO2 emissions and ultimately reduce your carbon footprint. Sustainable packaging is generally more lightweight than plastic, meaning you’ll require less energy to manufacture and deliver your product.
3. Conserves the Earth’s resources
By introducing eco-friendly packaging into your processes, you’ll be stopping the use of additional resources that are used to create plastic packaging, such as electricity, water and extra materials. Generally, sustainable packaging is greener to create.
4. Stops harmful toxins from spreading
Traditional plastic packaging can be created from harmful resources such as crude oil and coal. These can sometimes contain toxins and allergens that may impact your customers' health. On the other hand, biodegradable packaging is allergen and toxin free, even as it degrades. And with it being easy to create on traditional packaging machines, it’s an easy and affordable switch to.
5. It’s versatile and innovative
With plastic packaging, you may be limited to how you can shape it, and you’re definitely limited by how many times you can use it. Sustainable packaging can be creatively moulded into unique shapes that can boost your branding, and they can be recycled to be used again, saving you money.
How environmentally friendly packaging will help your business
We’ve covered five of the most popular benefits of sustainable packaging in general, but how does it benefit businesses?
1. It’ll boost your brand image
Customers are becoming more eco-friendly, and are seeking out brands with a sustainable profile. Eco-friendly packaging is a good indicator for customers that your brand has an environmental commitment and are actively trying to reduce your carbon footprint. And with increased brand awareness comes increased sales and an increased customer base.
2. It cuts costs
The initial costs of setting up sustainable packaging in your business is one of the biggest deterrents for businesses, but ultimately green packaging will save you money in the long run:
- Certain sustainable packaging sources can be cheaper, but there’s a huge range out there depending on your budget.
- If you import more than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging, you will have to pay the plastic packaging tax, which was introduced in April 2022.
- The recyclable nature of sustainable packaging means that what you invest in could be infinitely reusable, saving you the need to purchase more.
3. Saves you storage space
Certain types of recycled packaging, such as corrugated cardboard boxes, are more efficient than traditional packaging when it comes to storage. By being easily foldable, you’ll be able to store them more effectively, meaning you’ll have more room to store other things such as more stock.
Moving your business operations to use sustainable packaging certainly won’t happen overnight. By starting your journey now, you’ll be able to save on packaging costs, boost your brand image and reduce the amount of plastic packaging in landfills in the future.
If you’re looking to invest in recycled packaging, establishing a strong relationship with a reliable and eco-conscious recycling company is a crucial step in your journey. Shredall SDS Group offers cardboard recycling services across the UK, managing the complete process of storage, collection and the recycling of your sustainable packaging.
Get in touch with our team today to find out how Shredall SDS Group can help you on your recyclable packaging journey.