Five sustainable packaging myths: Solved
head of sustainability at Packhelp
It’s not only essential for brands to play their part to reduce the strain on the environment, but it’s become a major factor in brand differentiation. The public expects businesses to lead the way, particularly with
their packaging. If packaging cannot be reduced, it at least needs
to be sustainable.
Sustainable packaging helps businesses become future proof. Although the initial costs, effort and time of switching may seem vast, it’s something to be considered now rather than later when it becomes a necessity. Countries are beginning to ban environmentally damaging materials
such as single-use plastics, so companies need to start preparing for the future now.
Sustainable options can also increase sales. According to market research company, GlobalWebIndex, 42% of US and UK consumers seek out products that are recyclable or use sustainable materials when making day-to-day purchases.
Excess packaging leads to increased landfills, where the decomposition process can release damaging carbon dioxide and methane gas. It also worsens the well-publicised ocean plastic problem and contributes to air pollution, with the release of harmful gases, such as vinyl chloride, CFCs, and hexane. That’s why aiming for sustainable packaging should be a priority for everyone.
One of the reasons that many brands have been slow to adopt sustainable packaging is because of the ill-informed myths that have built up around the industry.
Debunking the biggest sustainable packaging myths
- Sustainable packaging is more expensive
This argument might have been true when companies first turned towards sustainability, but this is no longer a valid argument. There are instances where sustainable base materials can require a greater outlay, however the materials also engender savings. For example, sustainable materials are typically lighter and cheaper to transport. Plus, the materials will often take up less space and by redesigning the packaging with sustainable options, companies can often save money.
- Compostable packaging can break down anywhere
Compostable packaging does not just disappear, although many brands may claim it does. Similarly, throwing a compostable item into landfill does not mean it will break down as landfill conditions are designed to prevent materials from breaking down to restrict the release of methane. This means compostable packaging must be properly dealt with and cannot just be thrown away.
- Sustainable packaging is ‘boring’
Sustainable packaging may seem boring, but it doesn’t have to be as innovations from the likes of sportswear brand, Puma, and apparel brand, Seasalt Cornwall, have shown. Puma’s ‘Clever Little Bag,’ which is designed to hold trainers reduces the brand’s manufacturing water, energy, and diesel consumption by more than 60% per year. Meanwhile, Seasalt Cornwall removed 18 tonnes of single-use plastic from its business in 2018 by creating attractive and sustainable packaging alternatives. My company, Packhelp, allows businesses to design fully customised, sustainable packaging without prior design knowledge. This means any company can make their packaging fun, inclusive, creative and sustainable.
- Sustainable packaging is limited in choice
There used to be limited sustainable packaging options. Today, however, there are plenty of options to choose from ranging from biodegradable, compostable and ethically sourced to recycled and reusable; and more are joining the market every day.
- There’s still time to ignore sustainable packaging
The world is fast becoming overrun with rubbish, much of it non-recyclable and non-degradable. Plastic pollution is at the highest it has ever been, and plastic taxes are in the pipeline. Consumers are also becoming increasingly well-informed about sustainability and frequently shopping with their conscience, which means there is no longer room for businesses to ignore the packaging problem.
Change isn’t always easy to implement and the prospect of putting time, resources, and effort into making a core infrastructural change to a business can be daunting. Right now, companies have both the cost of living crisis and a global talent shortage to contend with but a business will only ever be sustainable if it embraces environmentally friendly packaging.
Sustainable innovation is driving the packaging industry into the future but there are several myths holding the sector back, argues Zuzanna Mazurek, the head of sustainability at custom branded packaging site Packhelp.