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Knowledge Base

Sustainable Packaging and How it Affects Your Business


Increased efforts in implementing green initiatives all around the world have been growing at an exponential rate, and there’s no sign of stopping any time soon. Sustainable initiatives have improved and developed over the years. Now it is a standard in our culture, affecting consumer spending habits and decisions. Sustainable packaging is on the rise. Now is the time for you to join the movement.

Consumers today are all about sustainability. They are making conscious decisions and are willing to pay a premium for green products. New packaging trends are on the rise, and companies of all sizes need to be aware of in today’s market.

With visible changes to our environment, it is now more important than ever to understand sustainability. So what does this mean for your company and your packaging manufacturer and supplier?


Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency

What is Sustainable Packaging?

One of the first impressions that consumers will have of your company is your packaging. Packaging can be the perfect way to deliver your company’s message to the consumer. An appealing design can attract attention and make the unboxing experience more exciting. But there is so much more than that.

In today’s marketplace, consumers want transparency. Customers want to know exactly where your company is producing its packaging. Will the material make a negative impact on the environment? Was the material sourced ethically? Was the process, used to print the packaging, sustainable? The process and materials used for your packaging is an important factor and can affect your consumer’s impression. It is as important to be sustainable as having a great design.

The packaging must be recyclable. Whether recycling at home or at the local depot, the process of recycling must be easy and efficient. The key to sustainable packaging is that it needs to have a low impact on our environment.


Elements of Sustainable Packaging

Kraft

Kraft paper is 100% sustainable, and among one of the most popular packaging materials in the world. It is much more sustainable to manufacture kraft paper compared to regular paper. Kraft is produced from all-natural ingredients such as pulp from all types of wood, while regular paper uses specific woods.

Bleaching is also not involved, which maintains the strength of the paper and decreases manufacturing costs. Kraft paper is also a lightweight packaging material that helps maintain a low shipping cost.

Molded Pulp

This material is no stranger to sustainable packaging. A growing sustainability trend of large and small brands alike are opting to use molded pulp more often than other packaging options. Created with paper fibers, either virgin or recycled, molded pulp is one of the most sustainable packaging options on the market right now. It is very common to find electronics and home appliance companies use molded pulp inserts. Protective and thermoforming capabilities of this material allow for more packaging options. This is perfect for products that come in any shape or size.

This report from Apple shows that they’ve increased the use of recycled fibers by 30%. This reduced the amount of plastic in their packaging for the iPhone 7, compared to the packaging for the iPhone 6.

Foams

A very large part of the packaging industry is the use of foams. Packaging foams are material used in different levels of the industry. It is used as a duo-purpose protective layer, as well as to organize small products to provide a good presentation. But, foams were not always the most environmentally friendly.

As the subject of sustainable packaging continues to rise, biodegradable and paper foam alternatives have been developed to replace this material. Since the market for sustainability is growing, it is beneficial for smaller companies to ride the momentum.

Plastics

When talking about packaging, it’s hard to ignore plastics. It is an even more controversial subject when talking about sustainable packaging. According to the British Plastics Federation, plastics make a positive contribution to the three pillars of sustainability.

Plastics have provided excellent benefits in packaging. It is lightweight, resource and energy-efficient, and offers excellent durability in comparison to paper options. As a result, using plastic as a packaging material is able to reduce waste, and save energy.

Although plastics may be a viable packaging option, the goal remains the same: to completely cut the use of plastics. Governments around the world have taken action to ban or discourage single-use plastics. Over the last decade, too much plastic waste has found its way into the ocean, affecting wildlife and destroying ecosystems.

As of May 2019, the United Nations Environmental Programme has confirmed 100 million tons of plastic waste found in the ocean. 80-90% had come from land-based sources. When we do use plastics, we need to make sure that it can be reused and recycled.

Inks

The use of sustainable inks is a rising trend. These inks no longer need heavy metals like lead and mercury. The biggest difference is the reduction or complete removal of volatile organic compounds. These compounds produce gases that are hazardous to both the environment, and to human health.

Although energy-saving initiatives are in place, biodegradable inks have been the most impactful. These inks use organic vegetable oils. The result is a reduced impact on the environment and allows lower energy consumption during the recycling process.

Sourcing and Production

Not only should the materials be sustainable, but we should also consider how it’s sourced. Energy efficiency and the process throughout production are also very important considerations. PakFactory’s new partnership with the National Forest Foundation is an effort to help replenish trees lost from overconsumption and natural causes.

Paper is such a fundamental material in packaging. We can maintain a valuable source of material used in all industries by keeping a low to a moderate consumption rate, and by using a replenishable source.

Tree farms are a sustainable solution where trees are privately managed and maintained. These farms provide an almost limitless amount of resources to produce paper products. Production will need to involve energy-saving solutions to cut the impact on the environment.

Minimal Design

In order for your packaging to be sustainable, you also need to consider the design as well. Consider using minimal materials for the structure. Optimize your packaging with a specialist to reduce the weight. At the same time, maintain structural integrity to endure any rough handling during the shipment process. Choose your materials wisely to maintain the focus on reducing your environmental footprint.


It really depends on each municipality. Certain types of laminations used, for example, may be difficult to recycle, depending on that area’s recycling system…so it’s good to understand the regulations of your area in advance.

Russel Velarga, Structural Solutions Specialist at PakFactory

So what are the consumers thinking?

Sustainability is affecting governments and businesses all around the world. Consumers are contributing to this massive trend by becoming more aware of the impact that products have on the environment. Businesses may not change, but the demand for green products and sustainable business practices is growing. Businesses cannot afford to ignore these insights.

The Brandless Era

Consumers are no longer brand-oriented either. Customers now gravitate towards smaller brands and businesses. The reason for this is that these smaller businesses can meet their needs for sustainability. In today’s market, smaller brands have higher potential and more opportunity to stand-out.

When we compare regular products against products made with sustainable practices and materials, the cost is usually the most obvious comparison. Yet, as consumers adopt the Healthy for Me, Healthy for the World trend, businesses discover that price is not an issue.

Even with inflation, consumers are willing to make good purchasing decisions by opting for green products and supporting sustainable brands. In fact, a study done by Nielsen shows that 49% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for high-quality products with visible and existing safety standards. This includes organics, free of antibiotics, hormone-free, and GMO-free.

Sustainability has become an enormous issue over the last decade. Businesses all over the world have become more environmentally aware. Consumer influence is one of the strongest driving factors for businesses. This is affecting the market more than we may think. Businesses are taking action and acknowledge their responsibility to pursue sustainable business practices. Professionals and more business owners have emerged as thought leaders on this topic contributing to an environmental cause.

About author

Kenneth Kwok is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at PakFactory. He enjoys the active pursuit of knowledge through content creation and digital storytelling. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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