6 Best Practices for Eco-Friendly Packaging
China’s recent ban on importing waste has created a worldwide crisis for recycling programs. In the global scramble for a solution, businesses have come to the realization that recycling is no longer a viable or sustainable option to manage today’s throw-away culture. As awareness deepens, companies are faced with the challenge and opportunity to develop solutions that champion sustainability. By paving the way with a positive narrative and concrete initiatives, retailers can encourage consumers to do the same, resulting in a mutual effort that builds long-term trust and engagement.
Below are six best practices for eco-friendly packaging:
1. Logistics for a Low Carbon World
Logistics play a large role in the amount of carbon emissions that are released during the manufacturing and distribution of packaging. An environmental analysis of operational choices and processes can be streamlined for both cost savings and environmentally friendly efficiency. For instance, replacing old machinery with equipment that uses renewable energy sources is a great way to achieve sustainability. Solutions can also be implemented in the transportation process by tweaking pallet configurations, re-evaluating transport distances, improving stacking capabilities and modularization, and choosing fuel-efficient modes of transport.
2. Sourcing Packaging Materials
Understanding the supply chain is a necessity when it comes to sourcing sustainable packaging materials that stay clear of destructive practices. Paper that's not 100 percent recycled could be sourced from old growth forests, natural forest conversions or even drained wetlands. Therefore, businesses should do their due diligence. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) holds a high standard of requirements that are endorsed by the environmental community, which means that its paper is sourced in the best possible manner. Corrugated material is often a top choice in the manufacturing industry because of its lightweight and highly recyclable features. It's also produced with minimal energy consumption and most often made from recycled resources.
3. Printing Inks
Businesses that strive to achieve sustainability need to consider the impact that inks have on the environment. While biodegradable and water-soluble inks and bio-oils, such as soy ink, are better for human heath, they can also be harvested from crops that required significant clear-cutting, contributing to further environmental damage. Currently, there's no single solution to the challenge, but packaging manufacturers should aim to use inks that utilize minimal resources and energy. Likewise, choosing inks that can be easily de-inked during the recycling process is a step in the right direction.
4. Minimizing Waste
Packaging that's designed to be as minimalistic as possible in terms of size and weight is instrumental in reducing the amount of raw materials that are used for production and overall waste at the end of the package’s life phase, as well as for optimizing efficiency in the transport process. Packaging that's lighter, stronger and smarter will maximize resources while providing optimal protection and security for the product it contains. Additionally, digital printing allows manufacturers to make cost-effective short runs with rapid turnaround times, which decreases inventory and minimizes the waste generated by excess or dated stock.
5. Flexible Packaging Materials
Rigid-to-flexible conversion designs have been trending for some time, but with recent consumer concerns about the use of plastic and its negative impact on the environment, businesses must work to showcase the advantages that flexible packaging can offer. Because of its low material consumption, flexible packaging is quickly replacing other formats. Flexible packaging is also lightweight and durable, which is ideal for shipping, and uses minimal raw materials to produce. The next wave of flexible packaging includes How2Recycle labeling, a standardized system that uses smart packaging labels made from mono-materials to communicate clear recycling instructions to consumers, empowering them to make a difference.
6. Second Life Packaging
Second life packaging has the potential to be converted into something new. Developing packaging that can be upcycled not only reduces waste but also adds perceived value to a product and leaves a lasting brand element for consumers to keep. Manufacturers are very active with this type of format, using creativity and innovation to create packaging that can be reused as attractive containers, bags, pouches or glassware. Many companies now include instructions on how to repurpose their packaging for conversion into items such as plant pots, lanterns and even cat houses.
Phil Bagdasarian is the co-founder of Packwire, an online printing and packaging service that enables businesses to create their own box design, including branded mailers, folding cartons, shipping boxes and gift boxes.
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