11 Nov How Should We Define Sustainable Packaging?
This week, we’re joined by #EthicalHour sponsor noissue to discuss sustainable packaging and how consumers and brands can play their part in tackling the pollution caused by single use plastic.
This guest post is part of the #EthicalHour sponsorship programme – written by noissue.
It’s impossible for us to talk about retail without also talking about packaging.
Virtually every time we make a purchase, it comes with an unwanted souvenir: a plastic bag, an oversized box, or yards of shrink wrap.
Packaging is irrefutable evidence of the harm caused by our consumer habits.
It’s so ubiquitous in our daily life that we literally don’t notice it.
But the environmental damage caused by packaging waste and plastic pollution is now impossible to ignore.
A World Full of Plastic
According to National Geographic, only 9% of the plastic produced in the last 60 years has actually been recycled.
The remaining 91%?
It ends up in our landfills, and increasingly within our oceans.
If left unchecked, plastic could outweigh fish by 2050.
We’ve all seen the images of supermarket bags floating through the ocean, but the truth is far more disturbing.
When plastic biodegrades, it breaks down into ever smaller pieces. These particles are known as ‘mermaids tears’.
Animals digest them at all levels of the food chain: plankton, the fish that feed on them, and in turn, by us.
Humans are now digesting around 11,000 pieces of microplastic per year. We are still yet to know the full extent of its effects on our health.
Protecting the Planet
In 2019, sustainable packaging is really a no-brainer.
We can no longer stick our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening to our planet.
It’s all too clear that businesses need to start taking responsibility for their environmental impact – and consumers are giving them a powerful incentive to do so.
Documentaries such as Blue Planet have been instrumental in showing consumers the harsh reality of packaging waste. As a result, we have seen an upsurge in demand for eco-friendly business practices.
According to Dotcom Distribution’s 2019 study, 62% of shoppers say that they are more likely to buy from brands that use sustainable packaging.
This rises to 74% amongst 18-29 year-olds – soon to be the biggest consumer demographic.
Even more importantly, 66% of global consumers are now willing to pay more for goods that are sustainable.
This throws some serious doubt on claims that sustainable practices ‘ruin’ businesses by pushing prices up. If anything, sustainability is now a serious brand asset.
But despite this new level of interest, there are still a lot of challenges to be overcome.
The onus is still on the consumer to dispose of packaging responsibly, even if it’s a lengthy and impractical process.
By kicking the can further down the road (so to speak), many businesses are still trying to absolve themselves of responsibility.
When materials are renewable/recyclable, consumers also receive little guidance on what this means in practice.
A 2018 study found that consumers’ lack of understanding about safe disposal is the biggest barrier to businesses adopting eco-friendly packaging.
Governments around the world have started to take action in response to consumer demand.
Over 60 countries have taken steps to eliminate single-use plastics such as bags and straws. This is a major step forward, but banning plastic is only part of the solution: What we need is innovation.
If businesses are truly going to overcome their reliance on non-renewable packaging materials, they need alternatives that are sustainable, affordable AND easily disposed of.
How Should We Define Sustainable Packaging?
There is no universal definition for what qualifies as sustainable packaging.
But in general, it refers to designs or materials that are specifically chosen to minimize or eliminate negative effects on the environment.
Any eco-friendly packaging alternatives need to take the following into consideration:
- Minimizing waste
- Maximizing the use of renewable materials
- Using resources efficiently
- Staying safe to consumers and the environment throughout its lifecycle
- Meeting cost and performance requirements
This last bullet point is rarely mentioned, but is central to the entire concept of sustainability.
Why? Because we can never achieve a world without packaging waste unless we are producing alternatives that are better than what is currently on the market.
But when it comes to cutting-edge eco-packaging solutions, few are designed with the needs of small businesses in mind.
High MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities) for sustainable packaging can create an impassable barrier for up and coming brands, making it challenging for them to reduce their carbon footprint.
When small businesses make up a whopping 99.7% of all businesses, this is a major oversight!
For noissue, catering to every stage of business has always been our guiding principle. We believe that high-quality sustainable packaging solutions should be within reach of everyone, from start-ups to multinational corporations.
What does this mean?
Low MOQs. If sustainable packaging isn’t affordable for businesses, then it isn’t truly sustainable! If we are going to see more businesses make the effort to go eco-friendly, it needs to be accessible. That’s why noissue has some of the lowest MOQs at the market, starting at just 100 units.
Easy disposal. There shouldn’t be any fine print when it comes to disposal instructions. noissue’s packaging range is acid-free and FSC-certified, making it both recyclable and biodegradable. Both our custom-branded tape and mailer bags will break own on a home or community compost heap in just six months, going back to the ground and leaving no harmful residues behind.
A fast 3-week turnaround. Why delay your business going green any more than you need to? No matter where in the world you are, your packaging will arrive just 3 weeks after you place your order!
What Can I Do To Help?
As consumers, it’s easy to feel that as the ‘little guys’ there isn’t much we can do.
We might not have control over how businesses package their goods, but we decide how we respond to it.
- Reuse packaging wherever you can. If you receive an online order which has used a lot of packaging, stop and think whether any of it could be useful. We all know that having a stack of cardboard boxes is pretty handy! Paper filler is also useful as it can be repurposed in a variety of ways, whether as scrap paper or to help protect fragile items in storage.
- Buy loose products where possible. Using your own reusable bags or jars for produce and grains in the supermarket is an easy way to save on packaging waste. You can also do this at clothing stores as well to avoid unnecessary shopping bags.
- Try buying from brands who only use sustainable packaging. Many brands are now making a commitment to only using materials like cardboard to reduce their impact. This also makes responsible disposal much easier on your end.
- Reach out to businesses for more information. If you aren’t sure how to dispose of packaging, consider contacting the company in question for more information. With social media and live chat available on many websites, it doesn’t involve too much effort. It might also encourage them to make more eco-friendly changes!
noissue is built on the belief that being environmentally responsible in your packaging decisions doesn’t have to come at the cost of high prices or quality. Our sustainable packaging solutions are all FSC-certified, as well as reusable, recyclable and/or compostable, depending on your needs.
Our low minimum order quantities and quick turnarounds we are suited to help everyone, from small independent businesses to fortune 500 companies. We provide a premium packaging solution that doesn’t harm the planet, so you can get back to what is most important: your business!