Written by Ayesha Abdullah
Sustainability in packaging has become increasingly important. The importance of keeping our environment healthy, by reducing the amount of waste we create and destroy, has become a growing topic between people. With the rise in the discussion, companies are becoming more aware of their packaging, as their consumers demand sustainability. In a study conducted by IDM and the National Retail Federation, eight out of ten consumers stated they valued sustainability (Bekmagambetova, 2020). The prioritization of sustainability has led to a number of sustainable packaging trends which we know will only continue to grow.
Single Layer Plastic
Single layer plastic, also known as Mono Material packaging, allows for all the components that would normally need multiple layers of plastic, to be in one. Mono material ensures easy recyclability and decreases the risk of material separation (Shah, 2020). Large companies such as Unilever have announced using Mono Material Packaging as a way to increase recyclable material (Eagle, 2020).
Paper is a renewable resource. Having a renewable material such as paper as a substitute, increases sustainability. Paper is biodegradable since it is deprived from plants, and can be recycled approximately six times (Protega Global, n.d.). Although biodegradable plastics are still a sustainable option for companies to package their products, having a source that can continuously be recycled and reused with ease, is preferred. Big name companies such as L’oreal, McDonald’s, Amazon, and Apple have taken the initiative to incorporate paper replacement into their packaging (Agrawal, 2021).
The Circular Economy and the Use of a Closed Loop System
A circular economy encourages the use of a resource or product for it’s maximum time length. This is opposed to a linear economy which was designed with the idea of “make, use, dispose” (Wrap, n.d.). The linear economy, which is our traditional economy supports the ideal of convenience. Whereas, the circular economy allows resources to be recycled and reused, working hand in hand with a closed loop system. A closed loop system in packaging ensures that the packaging for a product can be disposed of and remade into the same thing once again, reinforcing the basic principle of reduce, reuse and recycle (Produce Blueprints, 2020). Companies such as Procter and Gamble and Coca-Cola have announced the use of a closed loop system to achieve greater sustainability (Pratt Industries, 2019).
How to Continue Sustainability
Although companies are taking steps to increase sustainability within the packaging industry, there is a responsibility consumers hold to maintain this. Whilst big name corporations are moving forward environmentally, many companies still use single use plastics, greenwashing, and harmful materials when packaging. As consumers, we must push to increase the sustainability of products and packaging, slowly but surely. There is also a responsibility of disposing of the packaging in the correct manner, to ensure it is being recycled properly. These are great steps towards making the environment a healthier and greener place.
Agrawal, N. (2021, February 3). Well-Known Brands Are Moving Towards Paper Packaging. Here's Why? Bizongo Hive. https://bizongo.com/blog/big-brands-paper-packaging/
Bekmagambetova, D. (2020, Jan 10). Two-Thirds of North Americans Prefer Eco-Friendly Brands, Study Finds. Barrons. https://www.barrons.com/articles/two-thirds-of-north-americans-prefer-eco-friendly-brands-study-finds-51578661728
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Eagle, J. (2020, January 9). Unilever launches first of many recyclable mono-material packaging with Mondi. Bakery and Snacks. https://www.bakeryandsnacks.com/Article/2020/01/09/Unilever-launches-first-of-many-recyclable-mono-material-packaging-with-Mondi
Pratt Industries. (2019, February 4). Closed loop systems for zero waste packaging solutions. Web Packaging. https://www.webpackaging.com/en/portals/prattindustries/assets/12553032/closed-loop-systems-for-zero-waste-packaging-solutions/
Produce Blueprints. (2020, January 3). Explaining Closed-Loop vs. Open-Loop Recycling. Blue Book Services. https://www.producebluebook.com/2020/01/03/explaining-closed-loop-vs-open-loop-recycling/#
Protega Global. (n.d.). Which is more eco-friendly...Paper, or biodegradable plastic? Protega Global. https://protega-global.com/2021/01/05/which-is-more-eco-friendly-paper-or-biodegradable-plastic/
Shah, T. (2020, June 20). Movement Toward Mono-Material Films for Packaging. Euromonitor International. https://www.barrons.com/articles/two-thirds-of-north-americans-prefer-eco-friendly-brands-study-finds-51578661728
Wrap. (n.d.). WRAP and the Circular Economy. Wrap. http://www.wrap.org.uk/about-us/about/wrap-and-circular-economy#:~:text=A%20circular%20economy%20is%20an,end%20of%20each%20service%20life.