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Eco Friendly Packaging

Eco friendly packaging has become the hottest term on the retail packaging landscape. The problem is many do not know what the term means or what the other related terms like sustainability, recyclability, compostable and biodegradable mean either. My goal with this post is to help clarify what these terms mean and provide different options for your review.

Custom BioBags_HappyWay white kraft 1 (002)

Let’s start with the general term of eco friendly packaging. To clarify I am referring to retail packaging. While many of these items can be used for industrial purposes, I’m working with retail packaging options to begin with. Eco friendly packaging involves bags, pouches, styles, and films that are taking the environment into account. Either there is a reduction in the amount of film used or the material is unique in that it provides ways for the packaging itself to be reused, repurposed, or even recycled. Another is if the construction is made with materials that react to air and sunlight, like biodegradable or compostable materials that will break down over time instead of clogging up a landfill.

Terms:

  • Eco Friendly: refers to the effort to use materials and structures that take into account how they will react to the environment and even how we will dispose of them (can they be reused, recycled, repurposed, etc)
  • Biodegradable – Compostable: refers to material structures that are made from or have a coating/lamination of different ingredients that react to air and sunlight that accelerate how a package breaks down when it is no longer in use. Requires air and sunlight to work
  • Recyclable: refers to if packaging can be grouped with other “like” packaging and either ground back up and made into the same or similar material again, or ground back up to be used in the making of other products. Requires a structured plan to recycle either ALL the same structures (a type of film for example) or to recycle SIMILAR structures. This is a major difference. Think of recycling all of the same grocery bags from the checkout…the thin blue or white bags for groceries. This would be an example of recycling all of the same film structure. This is very difficult to do and control. The other approach is to accept ALL plastic materials up to a certain thickness (like the blue grocery bags and all bags used for packaging coffee beans for example). The key is to accept all similar materials (not the same) and then all of these films are ground up and used as “filler” or “base materials” for children’s toys, plastic lumber, park benches, bumpers, etc. This is another way to recycle.
  • Sustainable: an overlooked but highly effective way to help our environment. If we can find ways to improve our business by reducing how much energy is used to create the packaging or ship it or store it or all of the above, these are examples of sustainable solutions. Taking a rigid plastic container that holds windshield washer fluid or cleaning supplies and using a much thinner, flexible package that still holds the same amount but uses 75% less plastic, stores flat, ships flat, etc…is a classic example. There are sustainable options and solutions all around us if you only look.

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