There are little products out there that do not come in some sort of protective packaging case. The increase in consumption and rise in products means that packaging is being used more excessively in a world where resources are limited.
We have also all heard how much packaging waste has been affecting the environment. In the UK, plastic production is around 381 million tons with 5 trillion or more pieces of plastic polluting the waters around the world. According to The World Bank, the 2.5 billion tons of waste currently generated is expected to grow by almost 3.5 billion by 2050. Crazy right? This is because plastic waste often does not decompose and can last centuries in landfill, or end up as litter which can pollute soils, rivers, oceans and harming the creatures that inhabit them.
This is why packaging manufacturers are under pressure to innovate and find new materials to reduce their environmental impact. In this article, we will be exploring how you can make your packaging more sustainable to help make a positive change.
1. Check the life cycle of your packaging
Firstly, it is really important that you know where your packaging comes from and what happens when it is disposed of.
Sustainable packaging is earth-friendly and should not contribute to depletion of natural resources. The Sustainable Packaging (SPC) offers the following sustainable packaging guidelines to help us determine the sustainability of our materials:
- The packaging is beneficial, safe, and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle.
- Meets market criteria for performance and cost.
- The packaging is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy.
- Optimises the use of renewable or recycled source materials.
- It is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices.
- Designed to optimise materials and energy.
- The packaging is effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles.
Most product packaging comes from either virgin material, partially recycled materials, or 100% recycled materials. Usually, it is best to avoid using virgin materials as it would mean you would be using fewer new resources, but this is not always possible. In the scenarios where virgin materials are unavoidable, just make sure you are aware where they originate from and what the materials end points are.
What is your material’s endpoint?
The endpoint means where the material ends up once you no longer need it. The best sustainable materials can be recycled, reused, or composted. With compostable packaging, you would also need to consider how long it would take to degrade over time. To know whether your package is compostable, look for a certified compostable logo as this would prove that the packaging can be broken down without any toxic residues.
Some materials may require industrial recycling or composting that cannot be done at home and so users will likely throw it away instead of taking it elsewhere. Therefore, it would be best to avoid these types of materials where possible. In our Biodegradable vs Compostable vs Oxo-degradable blog, we delve into these different bioplastics further and how they can be disposed.
2. Use innovative, sustainable packaging materials
When paper and plastic, or two types of plastic, are fused together they are no longer recyclable because their layers cannot be separated. Therefore, when choosing your sustainable packaging materials, it is best to stick to pieces that are either made entirely of paper or one type of plastic.
Cardboard and paper are usually the go-to materials for most companies because they also provide the benefit of having printable and customisable properties. Cardboard and paper options such as cardboard boxes, paper bags, paper envelopes and tissue paper are not only recyclable, but they are also biodegradable. This means that if they do end up in landfill, they do not pose as big of a threat to the planet as plastic, glass, or metal.
Some companies have even started to use edible packaging – yes, packaging you can safely eat! Take Lush for example, did you know you can eat their packaging peanuts? That is one way to dispose of packaging without it affecting the environment. It is also an ideal option for businesses that sell food and drink in particular as it serves as an addition to the already delicious offerings provided.
At Swiftpak, we recommend our PLA bioplastic packaging as it is made using renewable resources such as cornstarch and sugarcane. PLA can be fully degraded into carbon dioxide and water after composting without any environmental pollution. It complies with local home or garden compost standards in the UK and the production uses 65% less energy than conventional plastics.
3. Reduce the amount of packaging you use
By shipping products in oversized boxes, you will be throwing away a lot of money as well as creating unnecessary packaging waste. Did you know that by shipping larger boxes than necessary, you are also increasing your transportation carbon footprint as fewer packages will fit in the van?
Not to worry though, as through bespoke and innovative design and manufacturing techniques, you can ensure that your packaging is shaped perfectly to sit closely around your products. This will result in less waste being produced as well as reduction in your transportation carbon footprint.
4. Think creatively, and design for reuse
One way to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up on landfill is by designing it for multiple functions so that it can be repurposed. Sustainability can be fun, and you can get creative with it if you want to.
An increasing number of brands are coming up with smart and innovative designs that prolong the lifetime of their packaging. For example, did you know that H&M conceptualised a shopping bag to turn into a clothing hanger? Pretty smart right!
The use of cardboard is one of the easiest ways to deliver goods, and luckily it is very straightforward to reuse as well. You may not want to be turning all your cardboard boxes into clothing hangers, but that is just an example of how businesses can be creative by thinking outside of the box – excuse the pun- to make packaging more sustainable. Ever heard of the Japanese Zipper box? Another example of how you can think creatively and design for re-use.
5. Use clear instructions on your packaging showing how it can be disposed
It would be a shame if all the effort to create sustainable packaging was put in by you, but then it ended up in the wrong place anyway because the end user did not know what to do with it.
That’s why it would be a good idea to consider placing clear labels on your packaging that shows how it can be disposed of – whether it be recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. That way, not only will you be doing your customers a favour by educating them on the best ways to recycle and dispose of your packaging materials, but also you will be showing that you truly care about the environment and where your packaging ends up.
Sustainable packaging from Swiftpak
As a Certified B Corporation®, sustainability and looking after the environment is especially important to us here at Swiftpak.
We try our best to reduce our carbon footprint by planting trees into our forest and encouraging customers to do the same (we have now planted over 1000 trees!) We have also recently created the Stretch Wrap Calculator so that our customers can reduce the amount of plastic waste they use by up to 74%.
Need to know more about our sustainable packaging options we provide? Please contact our packaging experts today and they will be happy to help!