In the face of growing environmental concerns, businesses worldwide are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future. One area that has received significant attention is packaging. With the global packaging market expected to reach one trillion dollars by 2023, the potential for making an environmental impact is enormous. This article explores the various ways businesses can make their packaging more eco-friendly.
The Importance of Green Packaging
Green packaging is more than just reducing waste. It's a comprehensive approach considering the entire lifecycle of a package, from resource sourcing to production, usage, and eventual disposal.
The aim of green packaging is to minimise ecological impact throughout this lifecycle. This involves the following:
- Using materials that are responsibly sourced
- Lessening energy consumption during production
- Using resources that can be reused or recycled
- Ensuring that the disposal at the end of life doesn't contribute to environmental damage
Green packaging also plays an essential role in the broader concept of a circular economy. In such an economy, materials are kept in use for as long as possible, and waste is minimised by converting it back into a useful resource. This is achieved by using resources that can be naturally regenerated and designing packing that can be reused or recycled, thereby keeping them in circulation.
Additionally, green packaging is not just an ecological necessity; it's also a commercial one. Customers are increasingly conscious of their purchases and are opting to support companies that show a commitment to planet-friendly practices. Hence, by adopting eco-friendly packaging, companies can meet customer demand, enhance their brand image, and potentially realise cost savings from reduced resource usage and garbage.
Key Elements of Sustainable Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging is a multifaceted concept that involves several key elements, some of which have been provided below:
First and foremost, packaging must serve its primary function of protecting the product. It needs to ensure the product reaches the consumer in perfect condition, thereby preventing waste from damaged goods. The environment-friendly materials must be robust and durable enough to withstand transportation and storage conditions.
Sustainable packaging should use resources efficiently. This means using the minimum amount of materials necessary to adequately protect the product. It also involves optimising the design to decrease waste and make the best use of space during transportation.
The materials should be designed with their end-of-life in mind. Ideally, it should be reusable, allowing it to be used multiple times before disposal. If reuse is not possible, then it should be recyclable, enabling them to be recovered and used to make new products. In cases where recycling is not feasible, it should be compostable, allowing it to break down into harmless substances that can contribute to soil health.
It should not harm people or the environment at any stage of its lifecycle. This means avoiding anything that is toxic or unhealthy to produce, use, or dispose of. It also involves ensuring that the production process is safe for workers and that the disposal does not contribute to pollution or environmental damage.
By considering these elements in the design and selection of packaging, businesses can contribute to a more promising future. However, it's important to note that achieving sustainability requires a balance between these elements, and the optimal solution will depend on the specific product, market, and regulatory context.
Sustainable Packaging Materials
There are numerous materials available for sustainable packaging. Here are some of the most popular ones:
These work like traditional Styrofoam peanuts but are biodegradable and less harmful to the environment.
Corrugated Bubble Wrap
Made from upcycled corrugated cardboard, this eco-friendly alternative to plastic bubble wrap protects fragile items during shipping.
Air Pillows Made From Recycled Content
These inflatable pillows are an excellent alternative to Styrofoam or bubble wrap. They can be reused, recycled and are even biodegradable.
Recycled Cardboard and Paper
Cardboard can be composted and can be recycled multiple times. However, it's crucial to obtain recycled paper and cardboard that comes from post-consumer or post-industrial sources to guarantee sustainability.
Cornstarch has plastic-like properties, making it a good alternative. However, it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons as it competes with human and animal food supply systems.
This innovative material is made from agricultural waste fused together by mushroom roots. It's biodegradable and compostable.
This organic and eco-friendly packaging is made from the gelatinous substance agar found in seaweeds and algae.
Biodegradable and Recycled Plastics
When plastic is unavoidable, opt for 100% recycled plastic or compostable options.
Organic Ecological Textiles
These include hemp, organic or recycled cotton, tapioca, and palm leaves. They are biodegradable and can be used in various ways, such as reusable bags or textile wraps.
More suitable for the food industry, edible films provide a sustainable alternative for wrapping food items.
Sustainable Packaging Practices
In addition to selecting environment-friendly materials, businesses can adopt a range of practices to enhance their operations. These practices not only contribute to planet sustainability but can also offer cost savings and marketing advantages. Here are a few examples that you can implement:
Offer Refillable Options
One of the most effective ways to make your business more sustainable is to design products for reuse. Refillable systems allow the same packaging to be used multiple times, significantly reducing the amount of trash generated. This can be achieved through in-store refill stations or home delivery of refill pouches.
Reduce Packaging Size
Another key practice is to minimise the size of your package. This can be achieved by optimising the design with the aim of using as little material as possible while still protecting the product. Downsizing packaging not only decreases waste but can also result in significant cost savings in terms of production, transportation, and waste disposal.
Design for Recycling
Materials should be designed to facilitate recycling at the end of its life. This includes using materials that are widely accepted by recycling programs, avoiding combinations of materials that are difficult to separate for recycling, and avoiding colours that are problematic and not widely accepted, such as black plastic. Clear labelling with recycling instructions can also help to ensure that it is correctly disposed of by consumers.
Use Recycled Content
Incorporating recycled materials can help to reduce the demand for virgin materials and decrease the negative impact on the planet. This can be particularly effective when combined with a recycling program that recovers the waste from your products to be used as a source of recycled materials.
Finally, businesses have a role to play in educating consumers about green packaging. This can involve providing information about the sustainability features, instructions for how to dispose of or recycle the packaging correctly, and information about any take-back or reuse and refill programs.
By adopting these practices, businesses can make a significant contribution to ecological sustainability while also meeting the growing consumer demand for environment-friendly products and packaging.
Stay Sustainable With Bower Collective
There are hundreds of eco-friendly brands out there that will get you top-quality sustainable products for you to relish for years to come. But in many cases, whether it’s handwash, shampoo or fabric conditioner, the problem lies in the packaging.
Sadly, less than 10% of everyday plastic gets recycled, even when we throw them in the recycling bin. The rest quietly make their way into landfill, causing massive pollution and needing hundreds of years before they break down.
As a certified B Corp, we at Bower Collective believe that the greatest deterrent in reducing our waste footprint is through the power of refill.. The team has developed our unique BowerPack™, which allows customers to send back their empty pouches back to us for reuse and refill over and over again for the next customers.
We then enable you to refill these dispensers with your favourite scented liquids. It could be a forest mint body wash, a rosemary and thyme hand wash, or perhaps a floor cleaner with a linseed soap refill. Whichever refill you choose, you can subscribe and save and receive an ongoing stream of amazing fragrances for your dispensers, ultimately decreasing your carbon footprint by reducing your single-use plastic waste output. Keeping both you and the planet happy while being carbon negative.
If you want to join the refill revolution, we’d love for you to look through our award-winning bestsellers and become a part of our amazing community of 95,000 refillers at Bower Collective.
Green packaging is a crucial aspect of a business's overall sustainability strategy. By choosing eco-friendly materials and adopting sustainable practices, businesses can significantly reduce their environmental impact, meet consumer demand for sustainability, and even save costs. As we move towards a more sustainable future, businesses that prioritise eco-friendly methods will be well-positioned to succeed.