Wrap It Up: Solutions to Product Packaging

Submitted by mchidambaram on July 16, 2019

We know that wasteful product packaging has a massive negative impact on the environment, and the growing popularity of two-day (or even same-day) shipping has exacerbated this problem. 

Packaging like plastic mail pouches, single-use containers, and food storage often wind up in landfills. Despite the wide availability of recycling cardboard boxes, many still wind up in the garbage. With the increase in personal online shopping, recycling of cardboard boxes actually decreased.

In addition to packaging issues associated with shipping and delivery, single-use containers continue to pose a problem. Products like single serving yogurt cups, individual chip bags, and makeup containers are often made up of several layers of plastic and other materials that are difficult to recycle. Another barrier to recycling these materials is the contamination of food or non-recyclable substances.

What are the solutions?

Because of consumer demand, many companies are taking steps to reduce the negative environmental impact of their product packaging.

Green Business Network member Big Dipper Wax Works guarantees that products are packaged in recycled paper products with soy-based inks, rather than plastic or new paper or cardboard parcels. Also, to reduce their environmental impact associated with shipping, they ship in bulk when possible. Similarly, Life Without Plastic ensures that products are shipped using recycled products, as well as products that are made without plastic materials. However, because it is difficult and expensive to use 100% recycled product for shipping, these companies aim to use packaging products that contains a high percentage of recycled material as often as possible.

Many companies still use plastic packaging for individual products before shipping. While plastic packaging isn’t always ideal, Dr. Bronner’s, a company that specializes in personal care products, has been a pioneer in sustainability efforts by using 100% post-consumer recycled bottles for their soaps. This practice reduces the need for mining new resources from the earth by utilizing materials from existing plastic and decreases the amount of waste collected. In some areas, Dr. Bronner’s even has curbside pickup for consumer’s getting rid of plastic bottles, so they have local plastic waste reconstructed into renewed bottles. Some of their bottles even include plastic from discarded Dr. Bronner’s bottles.

To combat the issue of single use containers that end up in landfills, Green Business Network member Alter Eco developed a compostable wrapper for their chocolate truffles. Additionally, Gone4Good, a subsidiary of Alter Eco, uses a compostable stand up pouch for quinoa. While the wrappers and pouches aren’t able to be composted in individual composters, but both are able to be commercially composted. While this temporary barrier may prove difficult for some people who don’t have access to commercial composting organizations, it proves that it is possible to store and distribute food in compostable packaging, which can significantly reduce the need and demand for single use plastic containers.

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