As the planet’s population continues to grow, carbon emission levels increase, and manmade pollution becomes more of an issue. For this reason, sustainability has become a salient issue for businesses over the past few years.
With this in mind, companies are looking for ways to prioritise ‘greener’ company values. One way they can do this is through adopting sustainable packaging. Oceans Plastic Free is a trailblazer in this practice. However, what is sustainable packaging? And why is it so important?
This guide answers these questions and more, as we take a closer look at sustainable packaging.
What does sustainable packaging mean?
Sustainable packaging is packaging that is better for the environment. It is made from materials that are eco-friendly during its full life cycle, from manufacture to disposal. When it comes to protecting our planet’s oceans, it is one of the best ways we can help to stop plastic pollution.
How to make sustainable packaging
When it comes to sustainable packaging, it’s not just about what materials are best, but also how it is designed and made. Below we outline the three key aspects of producing sustainable packaging.
Biodegradable or recyclable materials
Clearly, the most important factor when it comes to designing sustainable packaging is the materials used. As a rule, the best materials to use are those that are easily recycled. These include materials such as paper, cardboard, and aluminium. For example, here at Oceans Plastic Free, our plastic-free toilet paper and kitchen rolls are packaged in 100% recyclable paper.
Fully-biodegradable materials are also good for making sustainable packaging. Indeed, materials such as bamboo and cornstarch are becoming increasingly popular.
The second factor to consider when thinking about sustainable packaging is volume. This is to say, does a certain product require a certain amount of packaging, or can this be reduced? Although this can lead to expensive production costs – as packaging has to be made more bespoke – reducing volume can save a business money and make them more eco-friendly in the long run. This is because product packaging can be designed not only to use fewer single-use materials, but also in a way which can lower shipping costs through lighter payloads and better optimised shipping containers. Naturally, this can also lead to lower carbon emissions.
Designing packaging that has more than one function is another good way of making it more sustainable. By giving it a secondary use, businesses can prevent packaging being something that is simply tossed away after a product has been unboxed. For example, supermarket ‘bags for life’ that have replaced traditional one-use plastic bags. Or, as H&M have trialed, shopping bags that turn into clothes hangers.
What is the most sustainable packaging?
Although plastic remains the most common form of packaging, it is far from being the most sustainable option. On the contrary, with so much plastic ending up in landfill or in the ocean, it is part of the problem rather than the solution. Below we take a look at three of the most sustainable materials when it comes to packaging.
Recyclable cardboard and paper
A sustainable form of packaging that has been used for decades, paper and cardboard is super eco-friendly. This is because, when recycled, almost all forms of card and paper can be beaten down and turned back into pulp. This pulp can then be used to create new packaging. With so much paper and card in circulation at any one time, it is also a readily available and relatively cheap material for businesses to use.
Here at Oceans, all our toilet roll products are packaged in 100% recyclable paper.
Biodegradable packing peanuts
Packing peanuts are a great way to keep delicate products safe during transit. However, traditionally this form of packaging is made from polystyrene. This material is not biodegradable. It is also very difficult to recycle and takes hundreds of years to decompose in landfill. Basically, it is about as un-eco-friendly as materials come!
However, sustainable packing peanuts are now available. Made from cornstarch, these packing peanuts work in exactly the same way as their polystyrene alternatives. Once thrown away, they dissolve quickly in water, without polluting waterways or ecosystems.
Made from the roots of mushrooms, this type of packaging is biodegradable, durable and completely non-toxic. It can be grown to meet the exact specifications of what you are looking to package in as quickly as seven days and offers a similar level of protection to its plastic and cardboard packaging alternatives.
Why use sustainable packaging?
It’s thought nearly 80% of all plastic made over the last 70 years has been thrown away without being recycled. That is roughly 8 million tonnes each year. On top of this, in the UK, plastic packaging alone accounts for nearly 70% of all plastic waste. Much of this non-recycled plastic has ended up in landfills and the ocean, polluting ecosystems and damaging natural habitats. The introduction of sustainable packaging provides a way businesses can start turning the tides of this pollution.
Aside from the practical reasons, there are also commercial motivations. Indeed, according to a recent Deloitte study, 32% of consumers are now ‘highly engaged’ with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. By producing products that make use of sustainable packaging, businesses can tap into this more eco-friendly demographic. This is a win-win for businesses. They can help the environment as well as broaden their target market.