It’s no surprise that an issue plaguing the packaging industry is sustainability and waste management. Globally, the push for a “green economy” has made sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint benchmark goals in packaging processes for years. While there is an increased demand for sustainable packaging products, educating consumers on how to dispose of these products has emerged as an essential component on the road to carbon neutrality. With both materials and education becoming central to sustainability, we’ve compiled some tips on how to both reduce packaging waste, and encourage consumers to properly dispose of packaging products.
Use Recycled and Recyclable Materials
There’s a reason why corrugated cardboard (or simply, cardboard) is such a popular choice as a packaging material: it’s biodegradable, easily recyclable, and often composed of recycled materials. But made from recycled and recyclable materials are terms we often come across when selecting packaging. What is the difference? Simply put, recycled denotes having been made of material which has been previously manufactured and are therefore recycled into the product you see today. Recyclable materials pertain to packaging which does not necessarily need to have any recycled content in them, but can be recycled themselves after use. Either way, when selecting cardboard, both are biodegradable, and ultimately, a greener choice.
Use the “Right Amount” of Packaging
Think “less might just be enough” in terms of the right amount. Of course, packaging serves a practical purpose, to house and protect a product. We’ve all seen the opposite happen, that big box, filled with packing peanuts to reveal a smaller box which houses a product which may not necessarily be all that fragile. Minimal packaging really just reduces the amount of material, which also reduces product cost, energy needed for manufacturing, and less fuel to transport more product.
Rethink Protective Packaging
Admit it, when thinking “protective packaging” an image of styrofoam packing peanuts and bubble wrap immediately comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be this way. Praise the technological gods because here come biodegradable packing peanuts, corrugated bubble wrap, and cornstarch to save the day! While not always the cheaper alternative to traditional styrofoam, these alternatives come highly praised by consumers and industry alike.
A Little Lesson in Recycling
Finally, consumer education on proper disposal is an integral step in the road to carbon neutrality. The Recycling Council of Ontario estimates that only about 9% of plastics in Canada actually get recycled. This is due to improper sorting, contamination, and soft plastics. The aforementioned problems can be partially addressed through proper consumer education. Where should consumers put your packaging once they are done? Does it go in a blue bin? Does it need to be cleaned thoroughly? If a soft plastic pouch is used, where does that get recycled? Many companies are opting to provide in-house recycling programs where consumers can either send back the empty package for the manufacturer to recycle, or bring it back to where they bought it from for disposal. Think about placing a small blurb about disposal on the product, a small set of instructions to avoid the landfill.
Kirsten Crisostomo is a freelance copy and content writer based in Vancouver, BC.