Eco-Friendly Packaging 101: Small Packages That Make a BIG Impact
Over the past several years, Zenpack has received countless inquiries about eco-friendly packaging. Environmentally conscious businesses from all different industries are looking for sustainable solution, biodegradable packaging, 100% post-consumer content materials and innovative products that will help lessen the impact their commercial packaging has on the planet.
While there are a lot of companies out there who want to be more environmentally-friendly with their practices, many people still aren’t entirely clear on what eco-friendly packaging actually is. We are here to help educate consumers like you on some of the most common terms used in the eco-friendly packaging industry so you can gain a better understanding of what packaging options there are out there—and which solutions may work for you.
“Eco-friendly packaging is any type of package made out of recycled or recyclable materials and crafted using sustainable practices that are safe for the environment.”
REUSE & REDUCE
Reuse and reduce simply means that you can reuse any component of the packaging as a way to reduce your carbon footprint.
This is an easy approach to eco-friendly packaging that many brands are already trying to implement. This includes brands like Puma, who use an innovative shoe box design that melds together a traditional corrugated shoe box with a plastic shopping bag. This 2-in-1 design has multiple functions, uses less materials and has a reusable component to it.
This type of packaging can be as innovative and design-focused as Puma’s approach, or as simple as the latest effort by Starbucks to rely on reusable coffee cups instead of paper ones. The global coffee giant even started renting out reusable coffee cups at the UK Gatwick Airport as part of their own reuse and reduce efforts.
Biodegradable V.S. Compostable
For some companies, it is about more than just how their packaging is used—but about what that packaging is made of. Biodegradable and compostable packaging materials are some of the latest eco-friendly products to make their way to the market.
Biodegradable packaging refers to material that can be broken down and returned to nature within a reasonable amount of time. There are some gray areas on what can be defined as “reasonable,” but the goal is that the materials will eventually break down on their own over a number of years, not centuries.
Compostable, on the other hand, refers to human-controlled biodegradation. These materials, when disposed of properly. When disposed of properly, compostable products will break down through microbial digestion into humus, providing valuable nutrients to the soil without releasing toxins or metals.
Under the right conditions, this process takes approximately 180 days. However, this is rarely the case. According to ASTM D6400 standards, compostable products must be disposed of at a municipal or industrial facility that uses heat to properly break down the product.
Creating packaging out of materials such as this instead of harmful plastics is an easy way to make everyday packaging supplies better for the planet.
BPI certified to meet the ASTM D6400 specification. When it comes to making marketing claims regarding a product’s biodegradable or compostable attributes, the ASTM D6400 is the industry’s gold standard. The ASTM D6400 is the North American equivalent of the European EN 13432. Both specifications require that biodegradable/compostable products completely.
Recyclable with Single Material Packaging
“Recyclable packaging has been, and continues to be, the reigning champion of the sustainable packaging movement.”
Recyclable packaging is still the reigning champion of the sustainable packaging movement. It is easy for consumers to understand, it requires the least amount of energy expenditure and recycling facilities are becoming more and more common in cities and rural communities across the country.
Other types of sustainable packaging have an eventual expiration date and net new materials must be created to replace them. Recyclable materials, on the other hand, can be remanufactured into something new after its initial use—even if it is something other than packaging.
Similar to composting, the efficacy of recycling depends on a number of factors. First, the end user must make the decision to recycle the product, and their recycling center must have the capabilities to recycle that specific material.
Second, that most packaging is made out of two or more materials, and it’s often too difficult or expensive to separate those materials to recycle them. This is why single material packaging is the preferred option for eco-conscious companies.
100% Post-Consumer Recycled Content Packaging
There is a major difference between recyclable packaging and recycled packaging. Recycled packaging means the materials used to create the package itself have already been recycled. Post-consumer recycled content is material created from consumers after that product has reached the end of its use. This usually means the materials have come from a landfill.
This is different that pre-consumer recycled content, which can also be used to created packaging. These materials are generated by companies during the manufacturing process and then reused in production.
Both types of recycled content are made from recycled materials, but when you are using 100% post-consumer recycled content, you are taking that extra step to help the planet by making sure that discarded materials that can be reused don’t end up in landfills.
“Zenpack selected the 100% post-consumer recycled content material for our client on the e-commerce packaging.”
Sustainable Packaging Solutions
“Sustainable packaging involves using materials and manufacturing processes that have a low impact on the environment.”
Here at Zenpack, we are always challenge ourselves to provide our clients with new and innovative packaging solutions. This not only means boxes and packages that are reusable, but those that use fewer materials and are made with compostable or recycled materials.
We also work diligently with our suppliers and factories to make certain we are utilizing more eco-friendly production methods that rely on renewable energy and waste reduction processes. For example, one of our most trusted material providers is a FSC certified company that uses wind power to produce electricity for their paper production.
We know that partnering with companies like this can help us do even more to make certain our packaging solutions are sustainable as possible.
With the right design and production model, your packaging won’t just be beautiful and functional—but it can actually help save our planet. Even the smallest package can have the biggest impact on our planet if you just make small, notable changes to the materials you use.
We hope this article has helped you rethink the way you look at packaging. If you have any questions about how you can start embracing more eco-friendly practices, contact us today. We can work with you to create new packaging materials you can be proud of.