Sustainable packaging has become a decisive differentiator for consumer brands.
Accelerated by ethical consumerism, the responsible design and production of packaging is integral to holistic sustainability strategies. Unfortunately, navigating through the sea of frameworks and solutions for sustainable packaging can be challenging.
In common practice, packaging is considered sustainable when it comes with a minimal environmental footprint. However, the expert community is less united on this definition. While some experts call for an overnight switch away from plastics, others suggest incremental progress that considers the intricacies of life cycle analysis.
5 Core Sustainable Packaging Strategies
It turns out that there’s no silver bullet solution to sustainable packaging. Nevertheless, combining the following five initiatives paves the way toward sustainable packaging success:
- Implement Systems Change
Brands can accelerate a circular economy for packaging by initiating reuse systems. Sustainable packaging is as much about systems as material choice.
For example, retailers, industry coalitions, and service providers offer options for in-store drop off for reuse or recycling. Alternatively, e-commerce channels can benefit from reusable shipping models for consumers and suppliers.
By assessing each value chain at the system level, brands can embed sustainability strategies into their core business.
- Minimize Material Use
Many packaging applications contain more material than is required. The headspace and thickness of packaging can often be substantially reduced without any negative implications on performance.
Reducing material use for packaging is a low hanging fruit that can help you save money, impress consumers, and minimize your environmental footprint.
- Source Recycled Content
With plastic regulations entering the limelight and petroleum prices setting record highs, the demand for recycled material has increased substantially. Due to upcoming plastic legislations, brands are seeking to escape tax liability by increasing the recycled content in their packaging.
Integrating post-consumer recycled content into packaging is useful to minimize a brand’s environmental footprint, engage consumers, and also reinforce the economics of recycling. As recycling becomes more pervasive, waste management infrastructure has more opportunities to scale and innovate.
Companies should evaluate their entire value chain to determine where implementing recycled content may make sense, this may even include pressuring suppliers to follow suit.
- Design for Recyclability
Specifically considering plastics, the design specifics can optimize the end-of-life treatment. All aspects must be taken into account: color, additives and material type all of which should be optimized specifically to the geographies which they are being sold. Optimizing your packaging design for circularity is key, but don’t forget about providing end of life options to consumers.
Before promising recyclable packaging to consumers, make sure products and packaging complies with local recycling guidelines. Recycling instructions can educate consumers and empower them to recycle your packaging correctly.
Support circular innovations
While continuously improving design and production, brands can amplify their commitment to sustainable packaging by investing in circular innovations.
For example, companies can embed positive impact by sponsoring the recovery of packaging that would otherwise end up in nature. Alternatively, brands can engage with early stage startups by piloting their innovations.
To take holistic environmental action, companies need to consider internal improvements as well as helping to optimize waste management infrastructure.
Bonus Tip for Packaged Foods
Compostable packaging is most appropriate for food applications, where packaging and leftover food can be recovered together and transformed into high quality compost and digestate to regenerate agricultural soils.
For instance, there is a widespread agreement that tea bags, coffee pods, and vegetable stickers should be compostable. For most other applications, they typically don’t solve the problems of single-use packaging. Occasionally, they can even impose additional challenges when contaminating conventional waste streams.
Plan Ahead, Start Today
The perfect sustainable packaging is an ever evolving process, however it’s important to focus on the low hanging fruits first.
Ampliphi helps companies identify the actions that matter most to co-create a bespoke strategy that prioritizes immediate action.
What are you waiting for? Start a free trial today.