Disposed packaging material is one of the leading causes of soil pollution. Vast landfills are required to accommodate the millions of tons of packaging material disposed every year. Eco packaging promises to change all this.
What is Green Packaging?
Green packaging is not just about reducing the amount of packaging but takes package design, processing, disposal conditions and the entire product lifecycle into consideration. Some of characteristics of sustainable packaging include:
- Minimizing the amount of packaging used (weight and volume)
- Minimizing the energy used for production and transportation of goods
- Using packaging that can be reused again, such as bottles and refillable ink cartridges
- Using recycled and recyclable materials
- Using biodegradable materials
Businesses are investing in green packaging because consumer research has shown that consumers value sustainable packaging provided that other aspects of packaging like functionality are met.
The Cradle to Cradle Approach
Cradle to Cradle Certification is carried out by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) consultants. The cradle to cradle concept holds that it is possible to have products that follow the natural principles of regeneration and create zero waste products. Each product is believed to consist of 2 components the technical nutrients and biological nutrients. The technical nutrient can be reused without degradation into an inferior product while the biological nutrient is returned to nature at the end of its useful life. Besides being earth friendly, this approach can lower costs for organizations and do away with the need for landfills.
Different Types of Sustainable Packaging
Sustainable packaging is made of recycled products, recyclable products, biodegradable material and renewable raw materials. Some types of sustainable packaging products are described below. The list is indicative and not exhaustive.
Packaging made out of recycled source material
- Paper – is light weight, easy to print and can be recycled multiple times by using relatively little energy. However, the chemicals used to bleach paper may not be environmentally friendly and the replacement of forests by monocultures reduces biological diversity. Unbleached, post consumer waste paper is the best.
- Glass Uses the least energy per pound to recycle. Additionally it is chemically inert and can be recycled almost infinitely without degrading. The disadvantage is that it is heavy and breakable.
- Aluminum Is easy to recycle and can be molded to almost any shape. On the flip side mining for aluminum ore and aluminum manufacture are highly energy intensive processes.
Synthetic biodegradable polyesters
These advanced materials are moisture resistant, and disintegrate in 12 weeks under aerobic conditions. They are often used as a coating for protecting cheaper biodegradable materials. The biggest problem in the popularizing of this product is its high cost. Also the facilities for sorting and composting may not be easily available in North America.
Packing products made of corn starch and other annually renewable plants
Grasses like bulrush are used to provide pulp for manufacturing paper substitutes for packaging. Corrugated boxes made of sugarcane fibers are another example of sustainable packing material. These are hardy, easily renewable and are easily recyclable. Some of these packages may not have the strength needed for specialized applications or stacked storage or they may be permeable to water. Coating the package with synthetic biodegradable polyesters or pairing them with recyclable or recycled PET increases their performance characteristics.
5 ways of making your packaging greener
- Reduce packaging The ideal packaging is no packaging. Reduced packaging translates to cost savings in material costs, transportation and disposal.
- Recycled material is better than recyclable products a recyclable product may or may not be recycled. A recycled product on the other hand has been recycled and therefore has a smaller ecological footprint.
- Use Biodegradable materials Biodegradable plastics and polyesters are available and so are paper containers, paper nuts, etc.
- Do not mix products that are incompatible for recycling If two or more polymers are used in making a package it may not be possible to recycle the package. If you must use plastics try to stick to one single plastic so that it is easy to recycle.
- Design packages with other functional attributes A food container shaped as a toy or a puzzle box that can double up as an ornament store can ensure that packaging does not end up in landfills.
Choose the right partner – Green your packaging
- Be Green Packaging
- Green Cell Foam
- Green packaging
- Globe Guard Products
Be Green Packaging LLC is based out of Santa Barbara. The company provides cradle to cradle certified, compostable packaging made from bulrush an annually renewed plant. These packages are free from tree products and are made from bulrush plants harvested from the wild and not cultivated commercially. The impact on the biodiversity of the planet is therefore minimal. Some of the products that need a cover have been provided with clear 100% recyclable PETE lids.
Green Cell Foam provides coolers and other packaging solutions made from corn. These can be easily composted, recycled or burnt safely. The natural material has been used by Pharmaceutical companies like Sandoz, computer manufacturers and automobile manufacturer Volvo to minimize their environmental impact. The product is used for transporting heavy items like windshields on one hand and delicate play station games on the other.
Green packaging offers a wide range of products like recycled corrugated boxes made of 100% post consumer waste, inflated air pillows made of 100% recycled plastic, Prairie eco pak a filler made of recycled corrugated boxes, water soluble loose packing peanuts made of corn starch, loose filling paper nuts made of post consumer and post industrial recycled waste, biodegradable poly bags and poly bags with up to 50% recycled polyethylene.
Based out of Plainfield, Illinois, Globe Guard Products supplies reusable boxes, 100% recyclable poly padded paper, corrugated mailers made of 100% recycled material, post consumer waste recycled paper labels, Oxodegradable stretch film, eco friendly cushioning products and even gift bags made of treeless paper. Green Packaging is available for almost every application.
Image Credit: Eelke Dekker