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What Is Sustainable Packaging?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

Sustainable packaging is a philosophy of creating packaging materials that prioritizes environmental concerns. This is done by developing packaging methods and materials that effectively protect goods while not contributing to needless waste or using manufacturing processes that can negatively impact ecosystems. Several different approaches may be used to create sustainable packaging, including the use of recycled, recyclable, and biodegradable materials, reducing the amount of packaging used to secure and deliver a product and that can be transported in an ecologically sound manner. Many businesses are currently investigating different ways of packaging goods in a way that is sustainable.

One of the best-known aspects of sustainable packaging is the issue of packaging materials. Materials that can be reused or recycled can significantly reduce the amount of garbage that goes into landfills. Some manufacturers of packaging also focus on using recycled materials in the construction of new packaging, which further reduces waste. Biodegradable packaging is also one way of addressing waste management issues. For example, some companies no longer ship products packed in synthetic foam packaging peanuts, but instead use cornstarch-based peanuts, which can actually dissolve into a liquid when in contact with water. Although cornstarch packaging materials may be more expensive than synthetics, they can have significantly less impact on the environment.

Sustainable cardboard packaging uses recycled cardboard.
Sustainable cardboard packaging uses recycled cardboard.

Another factor in sustainable packaging is the quantity of packaging material used in the packing and shipping of goods. While packaging is generally necessary to protect many different types of goods, advocates of sustainable packaging are often concerned about its overuse. By carefully testing different packaging materials, manufacturers and distributors of goods can determine the exact amount of packaging needed to protect an item or items without creating unnecessary waste. Transportation of sustainable packaging is another concern. Lighter packaging means that less fuel is needed to ship the packaging to businesses and, in turn, to stores or retail consumers. By developing packaging materials that are lightweight, researchers can help prevent the waste of fuel.

Many products with plastic packaging negatively impact the environment.
Many products with plastic packaging negatively impact the environment.

In addition to these considerations, the sustainability of sustainable packaging itself must be monitored. If recycled, lightweight packaging results in the damage or spoilage of products while in storage or during transit, the product becomes unusable and the materials, energy, and labor used to produce it are then wasted. As a result, the development of sustainable packaging cannot cut corners in an attempt to meet certain environmental benchmarks if it is incapable of actually providing adequate protection for the integrity of the product.

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    • Sustainable cardboard packaging uses recycled cardboard.
      By: Scanrail
      Sustainable cardboard packaging uses recycled cardboard.
    • Many products with plastic packaging negatively impact the environment.
      By: Voyagerix
      Many products with plastic packaging negatively impact the environment.