What is Sustainable Packaging?
Sustainable packaging for e-commerce and retail is that which causes minimal harm to the environment and to life. It is often marketed as eco-friendly, green, or environmentally friendly. It consists of materials which have all of, or some combination of the following properties: Biodegradable, Recycled, Recyclable, Reusable, Compostable, and Containing post-consumer waste content.
Concentrating on these key features for packaging needs helps to move the whole world forward into a more sustainable future. More retail and e-commerce businesses are focusing on sustainability as core values. World governments are creating new sustainability regulations. And consumers are demanding a more green market. Making a plan to develop the very best options is not only an eco-friendly idea, but a priority for any business.
Avoid Excessive Packaging
Excessive packaging has long been a hurdle on the road to sustainability. Avoiding excessive or over-packaging not only saves on a retail or e-commerce business’ bottom line, but on storage space. It also affects manufacturing’s impact on the planet and availability of resource materials. Keeping packaging to a minimum helps to reduce the volume of waste in landfills. Consumers have become sensitive to the issue as well. Because of this, they take to social media with photos and video, decrying the use of too much packaging. This is often for products and brands they might otherwise praise. The best practice is to look into packaging that fits products snugly without too much leftover space.
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Paper Over Plastic
While plastic is occasionally necessary, when feasible, paper is always preferable since it is a renewable resource, easy to recycle, and naturally biodegradable. However, be sure to choose paper products carefully as some contain a light film of plastic that can make them difficult to recycle. A truly sustainable paper packaging product will contain zero plastic liner. Paper packaging is also often compostable. Check with manufacturers to learn about the compostability of your preferred paper packaging. There are many paper options now for shipping for retail and e-commerce type businesses. They’re worth looking into! And many have a high recycled content.
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Choose FSC-Certified Paper Products
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-profit organization that protects forests for future generations. FSC certification ensures that these eco-friendly products for retail and e-commerce come from responsibly managed forests, and that they provide environmental, social and economic benefits. The FSC Principles and Criteria provide a foundation for all forest management standards globally, including the FSC US National Standard that guides forest management certification in the U.S. Learn more about certification here: Certification (fsc.org)
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Many eco-friendly packaging products are made from recycled materials. There’s a vast array to choose from to suit any business needs whether it be for shipping, internal packaging, carry-out, point-of-sale, or protective packaging. Checking to ensure that packaging contains recycled content goes a long way in helping to reduce overall use of new or virgin materials that are likely to end up in a landfill.
Beyond containing recycled material, checking for post-consumer waste content is even better. Since recycled material can be derived from two sources: post-industrial or post-consumer, it is a good idea to get a sense of the difference. Post-industrial recycled content is usually made from the leftover bits of material in the manufacturing process. Most manufacturers will recycle what they can to make the most of their materials. But post-consumer recycled material refers to everything the end-user customer tosses into the recycling bin, such as empty plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper, and other packaging. This type has already served its purpose, but can gain a second life when recycled to become new packaging and to prevent waste.
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