SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING RESOURCES
THE WORLD OF SUSTAINABILITY IS COMPLEX AND EVOLVING. WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND WAYS TO BUILD ECO-CONSCIOUS DECISIONS INTO YOUR PACKAGING PROGRAM. HERE ARE SOME COMMON TERMS, MATERIALS AND RESOURCES WE’VE COMPILED TO HELP GUIDE YOU TO THE BEST SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR BRAND:
Packaging is recyclable if it can be collected, sorted, reprocessed, and ultimately reused in manufacturing or in the making of another item, but not necessarily for its original use. Examples of recyclable materials include:
- Paper (non-laminated)
- Bagasse (sugar cane)
Packaging that can be refilled or otherwise used again for its original purpose. When it comes to sustainability, this is one of the best attributes for packaging, since it is most effective at reducing/eliminating waste. Examples of reusable packaging include:
- Tote Bags
- Resealable Mailers
- Gift Boxes
POST-CONSUMER WASTE (PCW), A.K.A., “POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED (PCR) CONTENT”
Materials that have already been used in a finished product and are recycled into another product. Examples of packaging that can be made with PCW/PCR include:
- Paper bags & boxes
- Plastic bags & boxes
POST-INDUSTRIAL WASTE (PIW), A.K.A., “PRE-CONSUMER WASTE”
The waste generated from the original manufacturing process that is used again in the same material. Examples of packaging that can be made with PIW include:
- Paper bags & boxes
- Molded Pulp
- Plastic bags & boxes
Compostable items are specifically designed to break down in a commercial compost facility that provides the right environment for it to compost in a short amount of time. This means that customers must dispose of the packaging correctly in order for this option to actually be an “eco-friendly” solution. Examples of compostable packaging include:
- Paper Bags & Boxes
- Polylactic Acid (PLA) Bags, Boxes, Cups, Cutlery
- Bagasse (sugarcane)
A material is biodegradable if it can break down by natural biological processes. Biodegradable materials decompose through a chemical process where microorganisms break down the materials into natural elements (e.g., water, carbon dioxide, new biomass). Examples of biodegradable materials include:
- Paper Bags & Boxes (uncoated)
- Natural Fabrics (such as cotton, hemp or bamboo)
SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING MATERIALS
Bamboo is an eco-friendly, renewable resource. It’s the fastest growing woody plant in the world, capable of growing up to 24″ a day. It can be harvested in just three to seven years — much faster than hardwoods – and is a great alternative to paper or plastic. What’s more, it is fully biodegradable and compostable.
PLA (POLYLACTIC ACID)
PLA acts like plastic, but can be composted as it is made from organic materials, like corn starch. This bioplastic material has better thermal conductivity than regular plastics, which makes it great for storing hot food and can be extruded to make non-woven bags. It’s 100% biodegradable and can be composted.
Hemp is a great alternative to cotton, traditional paper, and even plastic. It is a renewable resource that uses less water than cotton or wood, and naturally absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. It is biodegradable as well.
Organic cotton is a good sustainable solution, as it is grown without the use of pesticides and from seeds which have not been genetically modified. It is naturally biodegradable.
Recycled paper uses less energy, water, and produces lower carbon emissions than the manufacturing of non-recycled or “virgin” paper. At the same time, it reduces the amount of waste to landfill, as paper can be recycled 4 to 5 times. It is biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable.
OCEAN WASTE PLASTIC (OWP)
Recycling plastics saves non-renewable resources, offsets the amount of waste that would end up in landfills, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, each piece of OWP packaging displaces the same amount of plastic from the ocean and rivers. Its use is increasing in the fashion and packaging world via garments and bags made from the up-cycled material.
SUGAR CANE / BAGASSE
The main ingredient used in the production of packaging products is actually not Sugar Cane but Bagasse. Bagasse is the dry pulpy residue left after the juices and sugars are extracted from the Sugar Cane plant. It is fully biodegradable in a matter of months and fully-recyclable, allowing companies to reuse the material multiple times.