As online purchasing continues to grow a new focus has shifted to sustainable packaging. And for good reason. According to Adobe, consumers spent $10.69 billion in online purchases on Cyber Monday in 2021. Single-use packaging at that level creates waste in oceans and landfills.
Packaging is highly important to the way a product is produced, transported, stored, and branded. There are many materials and types of packaging to choose from—all have an impact on the product and the environment. In the past, manufacturers focused on lowering weight and material usage to reduce costs and impact. Today, there’s a larger focus on material recyclability.
Plastic packaging has many benefits: Functionality, durability, and flexibility of shape and size. But it also has many downsides such as high emissions and low recyclability. To be clear, plastics can be melted down and recycled into other plastics, but the rate at which plastics are recycled is low. Also, plastics are made from fossil oil and gas, creating toxic emissions both in production and during the recycling process of melting plastics down.
Wood fiber packaging is a sustainable alternative to plastic. Fiber-based packaging emits greenhouse gases, but these gases give off carbon dioxide and are less toxic and easier to manage long-term. Wood is a renewable resource and has a higher potential to be recycled. The downside of fiber-based packaging is more is needed to match the durability of plastic. However, one day that may not be the case.
A movement toward material advancement and development makes fiber even more attractive. Traditionally, aluminum and plastics were considered the most durable packaging materials. But new developments in production technologies are increasing wood fiber durability to the same level as aluminum or plastics.
The Power of Influence
What will it take for sustainable packaging to impact the environment? It’s not just about switching materials and material technology. Manufacturers need to source recycled materials, even at a higher cost. They need to minimize unnecessary packaging. They need to alter designs to be lean and functional. They need to make recycling easy and convenient for the end-user. Brands should educate customers on how to dispose of packaging on labels.
Most of all, they need to champion sustainable packaging as a core principle of their brand. Consumers are responding to brands that value principles over profits. Companies can leverage their power to do good by creating awareness and empowering customers to do good too.
Evans Distribution Systems has a value-added packaging division that works with many customers on packaging design and material selection. If you’re interested in speaking with a packaging expert about how your packaging can be more sustainable contact us a firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-OK-EVANS.