Sustainability is increasingly on the agenda for businesses worldwide. But, with so many companies vying for attention (and sales) in this area, how do you cut through the noise and find the best sustainable packaging option for your business?
Let’s find out…
What is sustainable packaging?
Sustainable packaging is not easily defined in a single sentence, but is most clearly described as packaging whose manufacture, use and disposal at end of life causes as little harm as possible to people and the planet.
It goes far beyond reusability and recycling, as well as vague claims organisations might make about their business or their products being ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’. It involves looking at the bigger picture – the entire lifecycle of packaging, including its basic function, use in the supply chain, marketing, usefulness to the consumer, and what happens to it once it has reached the end of its useful life.
In the earlier years of sustainability drives, packaging would be deemed ‘sustainable’ if it followed the principles of the ‘three Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle. As awareness grew, the concept of rethink was added to encourage brands to work harder to design sustainability into their products and operations from the start.
Sustainable packaging: a definition
Today, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition suggests sustainable packaging is:
Beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
Meets market criteria for both performance and cost
Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy
Incorporate and optimises (where possible) the use of renewable or recycled source materials
Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
Is made from materials that are healthy in all possible end-of-life scenarios
Can be effectively recovered and used in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles
Has a physical design that optimises materials and energy.
Why is sustainable packaging important?
Over the past five years, there has been a more than 70% rise in online searches for sustainable goods. A survey of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries conducted by Accenture in 2019 found 72% of people were actively buying more environmentally friendly products than five years previously, with 81% intending to further increase such purchases in the next five years.
Sustainability has become a key consideration in the decision to buy for many shoppers. As a result, businesses that still consider sustainability a nice-to-have rather than an imperative for success are beginning to feel the weight of their decision as customers simply choose to spend their cash elsewhere.
What’s more, as the climate crisis deepens, concerns about businesses’ impact on our planet are increasingly on the radars of governments, regulators and investors too, meaning sustainability is no longer something businesses can brush aside and come back to later.
In many ways, packaging is an easy win. From the protective packaging that directly surrounds a product, to shipping crates, pallets and void fill, sustainable options are out there, and have been out there for a long time now.
The packaging industry had to step up. At one time, businesses had only a choice between wooden pallets and plastic pallets and were reliant on the likes of moulded plastic packaging inserts and polystyrene beads to protect and cushion consignments inside wooden shipping crates.
Now there are companies out there (like PALLITE®) who have made it their business to manufacture EcoLITE, our sustainable protective packaging, paper void fill and box liners that meet the needs of the present without compromising our planet’s future.
The benefits of sustainable packaging
Switching to sustainable packaging brings a range of benefits for businesses willing to make the move. These include:
Improved brand and consumer perception, therefore potential for increased sales
Potential to develop a USP in certain markets
Enhanced customer satisfaction through easier disposal or recycling of packaging
Lower costs as the result of using fewer materials and/or increased lifespan in the supply chain
Lower carbon footprint
Reduced transport costs due to light-weight packaging and space efficiency gains
Potential to save on product storage space.
Switching to sustainable packaging
Making packaging more sustainable isn’t necessarily about wholesale change – about swapping out polystyrene packaging or Styrofoam peanuts for cardboard packaging. Rather, it involves taking a holistic view of the environmental impact of packaging in the specific context of a business and its transport requirements.
In reality, switching to sustainable packaging from, perhaps plastic packaging, may take the form of:
Investing in custom-sized protective packaging to reduce material use and/or improve space efficiency in transit, leading to lower carbon emissions
Eliminating unnecessary packaging and by designing packaging that removes the need for tapes and wraps
Minimising void fill and secondary packaging materials such as polystyrene packaging, instead opting for integrated fittings that hold items securely in place during transit
Substituting wood and plastic to reduce volume and/or weight (light-weighting)
Encouraging packaging reuse by making it dual purpose
Partnering with packaging manufacturers that have adopted sustainable packaging practices
Adding a logo or tag to packaging to let customers know that it can be recycled.
Paper and cardboard packaging: sustainable packaging heroes
Cards on the table… at PALLITE® Group, we manufacture sustainable packaging products including sustainable paper void fill called EcoLITE, made entirely from recycled paper. We also produce products to further help with companies striving to meet sustainability goals including paper pallets, shipping boxes and layer pads.
All are ISPM 15 Exempt providing additional benefits should a company decide to switch to our honeycomb paper cardboard products.
So, we’re a bit biased.
However, it’s not just our opinion that paper and cardboard packaging are among the most sustainable packaging options out there – it’s a fact.
Paper is a carefully managed raw material, and we ensure we adhere to the strict guidelines provided by the FSC in the purchase of all our raw material.
Paper-based packaging products can also be easily recycled at kerbside and throughout the supply chain. In fact, paper packaging and cardboard remain the most widely recycled materials in the world.
If paper packaging does end up in landfill, it is completely biodegradable.
If recycled, paper and cardboard packaging can easily be turned back into new paper and card products, over and over again.
Similarly, be reused for protective packaging or void fill to pack almost any type of product!
To find out more about what paper packaging could offer your business, give us a call or contact us here.