Sustainability is no longer an added luxury–it is a necessity for packaging right now and for the foreseeable future. Companies of all sizes are stepping up committing to greener practices, and consumers are doing the same.
When it comes to buying packaging products, it can be a challenge to know what to purchase. There are endless options to select from and, without the proper training, it can be hard to distinguish which products are sustainable enough to make your customers and the environment happy. Add to that, there are many factors that go beyond the product which contribute to your overall eco-footprint.
Welcome to Sustainability
As we know in packaging, sustainability has been around for a while. We have been planning for decades, and now we are approaching some of the big goals that companies have set for reducing emissions, reducing materials, sourcing responsibly, and recycling.
What do consumers care about? A recent survey from The Conference Board asked over thirty-thousand consumers globally about their viewpoints and practices when it comes to sustainability. Overall, their biggest barrier is price; price tends to be higher for more eco-friendly product options. Combine that with their confusion and lack of trust around sustainability claims, and you can turn a consumer off pretty quickly.
What can you do to win with the consumer? First, education is key. Make sure you are showing and telling what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. For example, educate your consumers on your suppliers and your material sourcing. Take it a step further by using your product label and packaging to inform them on how to recycle your products.
Continue to innovate and find new ways to bring eco-friendly options to your customers. As history tells us, products and processes become more affordable the longer they are available. Collaborate with your packaging provider to learn more about cost-efficient strategies that are available for your packaging line.
The Basics: Green Products
In general, there are products that are better than others when it comes to their sustainability rating. New products are constantly coming to market that service the eco-friendly packaging buyer, so be sure to stay up to date with new products.
In general, you will want to source from vendors who have sustainable claims that you can validate. A good rule of thumb is that corrugated and paper options are ideal when available. When using plastic, ensure that you are sourcing safe plastics and following recycling protocols.
Here are some packaging products that are naturally green:
- Polyjacket-R: This flat poly mailer is not only 100% recyclable but also made with 50% recycled content. The Polyjacket-Rs are available in a number of stock sizes. They are also available in custom sizes and can be custom printed.
- AstroGreen Bubble: Our range of excellent quality, fully recyclable green bubble is made using 100% recycled polyethylene. It’s perfect for void filling, interleaving, wrapping and cushioning. This product is fully recyclable.
- iCushion OXO Biodegradable Air Pillow: The oxo-biodegradable air pillow film contains an additive that initiates chemical breakdown of the polymer chains much more quickly and completely than a standard film when in the presence of oxygen and heat or UV light. Once the polymer has been degraded to a low molecular weight, the molecular components can be consumed by micro-organisms. This act of biodegradation leaves only water, carbon dioxide, biomass and small quantities of minerals that will be assimilated into the ecosystem.
Choosing the Right Product, Not the Cheapest Product
You have endless options when it comes to selecting the right packaging materials. One problem that companies face is product damage from improper materials. If your packaging materials are not strong enough to keep your products safe in transit, damage will inevitably occur. This is where plastic may be the better option over paper or cardboard. The amount of damage from improper products outweighs the benefit.
Reduce the amount of extra product that is used to save from unneeded waste and materials. This adds up and makes the transportation process more taxing on the environment as well. Learn more ways to save money and reduce packaging waste.
Sourcing also has a big impact on your overall sustainability as a company. Your environmental footprint includes everything that goes into the raw materials. Understand your suppliers to make sure you are sourcing sustainably.
How Equipment Can Help with Sustainability
Packaging waste and overpacking has a harsh impact on our environment. By using automation on your packaging line, you can streamline your packaging materials’ usage to limit overuse. Equipment such as label dispensers and tape dispensers give you the exact amount of material needed so that you have consistency and prevent overuse.
When it comes to equipment, make sure to have regular inspection and servicing, otherwise you could be wasting energy. You can also have the residual impacts of equipment downtime. By using newer equipment, and keeping your equipment running up to speed, you are taking extra steps to protect the environment.
As a general caution, it is important to understand all of the aspects of your warehouse and what areas could be more energy efficient, reduce waste, and overall more eco-friendly. When you are ready to explore your packaging sustainability, or if you have not yet examined the eco-impact of your current operations, contact a Hughes packaging expert for an evaluation.