What is sustainable packaging?
For something to be considered sustainable, it needs to have been produced in a way that doesn’t adversely affect the Earth and needs to have a disposal method that has a low carbon impact.
E-commerce packaging has traditionally been extremely unsustainable because of its reliance on plastic packaging which is created with fossil fuels and ultimately ends up in landfills or the ocean.
Sustainable packaging is generally considered to be compostable packaging, recyclable packaging, reusable packaging or a combination of the three.
Why does having sustainable packaging even matter?
Ultimately, the use of sustainable packaging eliminates the need for materials like plastic and Styrofoam. These sorts of packaging end up in landfill and sometimes the ocean and are huge contributors to climate change because of the greenhouse gases they release into the atmosphere.
How Does Sustainable Packaging Actually Help the Environment?
Not only does it eliminate the need for plastic, but sustainable packaging can also add nutrients back into the environment. For example, compostable packaging doesn’t require any trucks to transport to take the packaging to landfill. It can be broken down in a home compost bin and turned into fertiliser for plants and the garden. It essentially turns into organic matter and is truly part of the circular economy.
What packaging is NOT sustainable?
There are two types of business packaging that are not sustainable including single-use plastic and materials that cannot be composted, recycled or reused such as polystyrene.
A good way to assess if packaging is sustainable is to check the instructions for disposal and the certifications for the materials used to make that packaging.
Watch out for words like “sourced ethically” and “green” as these are commonly used to greenwash people into thinking certain packaging is sustainable.
What are the sustainable packaging trends for business for 2024?
- Minimising packaging: Brands are reviewing excess packaging such as thank you cards, marketing materials, tissue paper, ribbons and string and removing those elements that are not necessary.
(Img source: https://daisymultifacetica.com/2021/08/26/5-creative-packaging-ideas-for-small-businesses/)
- Switching to home compostable packaging: There has been an increase of over 60% of businesses that want to switch to compostable packaging. It is considered to be one of the easiest ways to make businesses more sustainable. There are many options in the market such as compostable mailers or even compostable labels.
- Replacing paper cards with seeded paper: For those brands that need to include cards or receipts in the package, seeded paper is a great alternative to paper. Seeded paper can be planted in the garden or simply put into a compost bin.
- Minimising empty space: Have you ever received a package where the box is so big, but the product itself is small? Brands are now realising the impact this has not only on the environment but on consumer’s satisfaction levels. Customers don’t want the burden of disposing of big bulky packaging and it brings bad brand sentiment to any business.
- Direct thermal printers: Who needs ink anyway? Direct thermal printers never need toner or ink and can print shipping labels extremely fast. If used with compostable labels, it makes the perfect sustainable partnership.
Looking at every element in your packaging is essential to seeing how you can reduce your impact. There are some amazing alternatives out there like compostable stickers and even water soluble garment bags.