Everyone loves shopping, and the gig economy has made it easier to sit in the comfort of homes and buy anything you like and want with just a finger click. However, this has created additional problems for our planet and the environment.
Most of the products, whether eatables, clothes, or anything, utilize toxic plastic packaging, create pollution, are non-biodegradable, end up in landfills, increase waste generation, increase global warming and choke the marine and land fauna and flora.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that packaging contributes to 77.9 tons of municipal solid waste products annually and makes 30% of the total waste. Also, packaging represents 65% of all household trash globally.
The manufacture of a product requires resources, water, and also electricity. Also, plastic packaging produces toxic carbon monoxide and other organic compounds. Most businesses have admitted that manufacturing plastic packaging is more expensive than producing the product itself.
Plastic is a hazard in developing countries, but even developed countries like the UK struggle with plastic pollution. The Nation generates more than two million metric tons of plastic packaging waste. It translates to about 36 kilograms of plastic waste per person. In 2019, an average UK household produced 20.12 kilograms of plastic packaging waste. These are big numbers and have prompted the government to ban plastic bags, single-use plastic straws and even cotton buds.
Given the global plastic pollution issue, many international environmental organizations and even nations have expressed concerns and taken necessary steps. It is essential to act before it is too late, so reducing plastic waste generation using eco-friendly packaging is a viable option.
As more and more people are becoming aware of the dreadful impact of plastic on human health and the environment alike, they are buying from sustainable brands that offer eco-friendly packaging solutions. So, if you are planning to start your business, do go for plastic-free packaging and contribute to saving our environment and our beautiful ecosystems.
What is eco-friendly packaging?
Eco-friendly means something that is not harmful to the environment. It is made from recycled materials and uses eco-friendly raw material and sustainable manufacturing practices, with less energy consumption and minimal resource wastage. Hence, eco-friendly packaging has a low environmental impact and is easy to recycle and reuse. This packaging is also called sustainable or green packaging.
Eco-friendly packaging aims to reduce the amount of product packaging. It also promotes the use of renewable and reusable stuff. It is also less expensive than plastic packaging and eliminates the use of toxic chemicals as well. Also, compared to plastic packaging, this type of packaging can easily be recycled again.
Advantages of eco-friendly packaging
Positive environmental impact
Sustainable or green packaging has many advantages and has a positive environmental impact as well. It is beneficial for the producers as well as the customers. Green packaging can make your business flourish as well. A recent market study has found that sustainable packaging can help the brands to increase their net sales by about 2 to 4 per cent as consumers appreciate eco-friendly packaging as part of the whole brand experience.
Safe and healthy
Eco-friendly packaging is safe and also healthy for human and animal communities throughout its life cycle. It is not pollution creating, does not cause any harm, and is gentle as it decomposes quickly. It is made out of healthy, non-toxic material compared to chemical-laden plastic.
Easy to handle, uses renewable material
Eco-friendly packaging is easy to handle and is sourced, manufactured and also transported via renewable energy sources. It also meets the market’s criteria regarding cost and performance.
It is designed to utilize less energy and materials and uses recycled plus renewable material. It is produced using clean and green technologies and ethical labour practices.
Utilised in closed-loop cycles
The paper from packaging can be used for making handmade cards or even as a decorative journaling material. It is also used in biological and industrial closed-loop cycles and does not leave behind any waste after being recycled. It can be discarded or even used again.
Reduces waste generation and carbon emissions
Since it is highly biodegradable, it does not lead to waste generation and piling up. It also reduces carbon emissions, and the rawest material is organic and natural. It does not use any chemicals, which makes it healthy for both people and the environment.
Good for your business in many ways
Sustainable packaging can boost the image of a brand, and it will be trusted by the environmentally-conscious and even health-conscious people as plastic is bad for health.
It also means increased profits and savings as green packaging costs less than regular packaging and helps you save money. It also uses less material than traditional packaging. Your customer base would increase drastically if you use eco-friendly packaging as Millenials and Gen Z is more environmentally aware than older generations.
Highly versatile-can be used by all industries
Sustainable packaging can be used for packing any and every product and can be used by all types of industries. Sustainable packaging is good for the environment, but it is also robust and more reliable, offers better protection than plastic wrap, and is not to forget it is aesthetically pleasing.
Nowadays, many brands are experimenting with their packaging. Some brands sell eco-friendly goods in sustainable packaging with labels printed using vegetable or fruit inks. Many daily goods come with free eco-friendly goodies.
For instance, there are eco-friendly pencils whose upper side has plant seeds in them. So once you sharpen your pencil, and when it becomes very small and unusable, kids can plant it in soil and grow a plant through them. These are welcome innovations that are not only eco-friendly but imbibe good morals among children.
Some examples of eco-friendly packaging
Corn starch-based packaging is quite similar to plastic packaging in terms of appearance and qualities, and functions, but it is eco-friendly and biodegradable. It is derived from corn and can be used by many industrial sectors. It can be used to make soda bottling or even loose packaging material for wrapping goods or big appliances. For example, at US national parks such as Yellowstone, the hotels use corn-based sustainable packaging containers.
Plant-Based packaging and popular brands
Plant-based packaging options are great and innovative. They have the same functions without causing environmental degradation. For instance, Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a biodegradable plastic derived from lactic acid. It is made from agricultural residue, plant starch and sugarcane, and beet pulp. It can be substituted in place of traditional petroleum-based plastic that is hazardous.
A second popular brand that makes sustainable packaging is Coca-Cola. Its plant-based PlantBottle is made from a kind of sugarcane-based biomaterial. This Plantbottle has been manufactured since 2009, but then it used only 30% plant material, but from 2015, 100% of Plantbottle packaging comes from sugarcane.
Pepsi also manufactures 100% plant-based bottles. These bottles are made from switchgrass, pine bark, corn husks and other natural materials. It is entirely recyclable and biodegradable.
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Many US cities such as New York have banned foam products as their production requires polystyrene and not Styrofoam. The ban includes single-use clamshell packaging and also foam plates and bowls.
To come up with solutions, many companies have turned to alternative, eco-friendly options, such as biodegradable packing peanuts. Biodegradable packing peanuts are derived from natural sources like starch and wheat. They are lightweight and cheaper compared to plastic and do not harm aquatic life even if they get into rivers, lakes or oceans and seas.
Biodegradable Bubble Wrap
Traditional bubble wrap is non-biodegradable and ends up in landfills. Many companies have found a sustainable alternative to it: the corrugated bubble wrap made of corrugated cardboard, which is made to create a cushioning surface and then used as protective packing for appliances, crockery, etc.
Mushroom Wraps and Packaging
Mushroom packaging is fast becoming famous for commercial packaging. It is made of agricultural waste that is wrapped in mycelium or the roots of mushrooms. It is sustainable and completely biodegradable. The brand IKEA has started using mushroom packaging to replace its Styrofoam packaging.
Recycled Cardboard and Paper Packaging
Though plant-based packaging is new, how can we forget about our recycled cardboard and paper packaging that has been in use for many decades? Paper and cardboard packaging has evolved and is now being used quite innovatively by brands. When the paper is handmade or sourced sustainably or derived from completely recycled material, this packaging is excellent, has a low environmental impact, and is cost-effective.
Recycled Plastic Packaging
The post-consumer recycled plastics are not biodegradable but minimize the need to produce more plastic as plastic comes from petroleum, with a high energy cost, carbon emissions, and fossil fuel depletion. So, where biomaterial packaging is not an option, such as in emerging nations, then post-consumer recycled plastic material is an excellent packaging alternative as it reduces waste generation and energy use.
Packaging made from Organic Fabrics
Organic fabrics like hemp, flax, recycled cotton, palm, banana, and pineapple leaves can make organic packaging material and replace plastic bags and containers. These organic materials biodegrade within 100 days compared to 1,000 years for plastic bags.
To Sum Up
Given the increasing environmental consciousness, most companies and consumers prefer eco-friendly packaging, and many brands voluntarily shift towards eco-friendly stuff. Big brands like Dell and Walmart etc., have already made a move.
Traditional plastic packaging is derived from non-recyclable plastic, Styrofoam and Polystyrene, all of which use precious petroleum and pollute air and water. Green packaging or eco-friendly packaging is light and gentle on the environment and is not harmful.
The earth is going through climate change and increased global warming due to human activities; hence it is our responsibility to reduce our consumption requirements and do every bit possible to retain our earth in its pristine form for the generations to come.