The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has established several rules when it comes to what can be called eco-friendly or sustainable packaging:
Sustainable packaging is beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle. Meets market standards for performance and cost. Use renewable energy for sourcing, manufacturing, transportation and recycling. Optimize the use of renewable or recycled resources. Manufactured using cleaner production techniques and best practices. Sustainable packaging is made from materials that remain non-toxic throughout their life cycle. Designed to optimize materials and energy. Efficient recovery and utilization in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles. Essentially, sustainable packaging needs to be made from eco-friendly materials, biodegradable and capable of being reused or recycled.
1. Reduce carbon footprint. If it's made from recycled products, your packaging's carbon footprint will be significantly reduced. Likewise, if the packaging is made of natural materials such as bagasse or other plant fibers, the growth of such products actually absorbs carbon from the environment. If you want to make your business carbon neutral, sustainable packaging is the way to go.
2. Biodegradable. If the packaging is made of natural materials, that means it is biodegradable. Plastics are not easily biodegradable, taking hundreds or even thousands of years to break down, releasing harmful chemicals along the way. Some sustainable packaging, such as sustainable plant-based fiber products, can even be composted.
3. Easy to handle. Most businesses and places in the UK and Europe have dedicated recycling or disposal locations or services. Recycling is relatively easy these days, as long as you separate single-use items so they can be recycled properly.
4. No harmful toxins. Unsustainable petrochemical resources such as crude oil used to make most plastics are extremely harmful to the environment in terms of extraction, refining, distribution, use and disposal. Sustainable packaging does not have these problems during its life cycle. Since it is biodegradable, there are no harmful chemicals that plastics produce.
5. Easy to reuse or recycle. Part of what makes packaging environmentally friendly is its ability to be reused or recycled. Encouraging the reuse of packaging means extending its useful life, thereby reducing the need for new materials and further reducing its carbon footprint. If the packaging is of good enough quality, it should be able to be reused for further packaging, storage or even crafting purposes.