How to do Sustainable Packaging Right?

Sustainable Packaging plays an important role in sustaining our environment. In this day and age, we need to do our best to help Mother Earth in healing. Therefore, we shouldn’t contribute to the mess that has been in the world for quite some time now. One of the best things that we can do as humans is to pack our stuff using sustainable packaging to improve environmental sustainability?

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So what exactly is sustainable packaging?

What is Sustainable Packaging? Explained

Basically, Sustainable Packaging is something that can be recycled, reused, and re-purposed. It is a material that is perfectly safe for the environment and for the people in it. With this, it lessens the ecological footprint as well as the environmental impact that regular packaging possesses.

Nowadays, sustainable packaging usually means that a certain brand’s overall environmental impact is in check. The actual goal is to provide an improvement in the long-term quality and usage of life as well as the longevity of the world’s natural ecosystem.


Sustainable packaging has to meet the economic, functional, and systemic needs of the current generation while not having any negative effects on the future generations’ need to sustain, meet, and provide for their own needs.

For a packaging to be considered sustainable, certain criteria have to be taken into consideration.

  1. First of all, it has to be safe, healthy, & beneficial for communities, individuals, and the surrounding living things (such as trees and animals) throughout its whole life cycle.
  2. Next is that it needs to be sourced, transported, recycled, and manufactured with the use of renewable energy.
  3. The materials that were used to create the packaging are healthy for surrounding creatures throughout their whole life cycle.
  4. It needs to be designed physically to optimize and withstand energy and materials.
  5. It can be reused for future generations without contributing to the ecological footprint of the current generation.

There are places with stricter criteria, but these 5 should be great starting points in understanding the packaging requirements to be considered sustainable.

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Why Should Packaging Be Sustainable?

Yes, there are a lot of things that go into making a packaging sustainable. However, all the hard work is worth it because it is for a good cause!

Sustainable packaging is extremely vital because, as we all know, humans are responsible for most of the ecological footprint that the world is currently experiencing. Did you know that some packaging from the 90s and the 80s are still around now in the 21st century?

The impact that unsustainable packaging has on the world can still be felt now. And the sad truth is that the next generations will still feel its effects and by that time, there will be more waste products than there is space.

Advantages of switching to sustainable packaging:

Decreased Carbon Footprint

Okay, great! Carbon footprint is being reduced. But… what is the carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint is something that pertains to the total sum of greenhouse gases (GHG) that were produced, both directly and indirectly, to support our needs, lifestyle, and activities. The increase in the carbon footprint that we produce has such a huge impact on the environment.

First of all, the most noticeable effect is the rise in temperature as well as the shift in precipitation patterns. It affects most plants’ growth patterns, and the indigenous vegetation shifts to the increasingly colder climates.

The sea levels are increasing as well alongside the increase in temperature of the planet. And now, there are more warm waters over cooler waters… the greater amount of water results in the erosion of shorelines and the destruction of various ecosystems.

But because of better and more sustainable, eco-friendly packaging, there is a decreased need to consume natural resources. Energy usage is more efficient because the Earth’s natural energy doesn’t have to work double-time just to protect itself from unsustainable packaging.

Biodegradable

Sustainable packaging means that they are biodegradable as well. Because these are biodegradable, they have the capacity of reducing water usage, electrical use and emission, and the reduction of solid waste products.

The environment will greatly benefit from it because it doesn’t have to work overtime to decompose materials that just won’t budge.

As time passes by, biodegradable packaging will help the whole world accumulate a lot of savings from different resources, which ultimately leads to a well-distributed cost of the transition.

3 R’s of sustainability

Reduce: By switching to sustainable packaging, we limit the total sum of goods and materials that we consume.

Reuse: Reusing means that we can use sustainable packaging for future purposes other than the normal packaging that can only be used once.

Recycle: To recycle is to reuse a material but for a different purpose. TC Recycling processes these materials carefully and turns them into something that can be more useful for a community. This concerns packaging and raw materials that are more conducive to recycling or enabling technologies that improve recyclability. For example, we have seen numerous R&D efforts to develop recyclable, high-barrier mono-materials (such as all-polyethylene materials or components). It could also include nonpolymer substrates; several paper and board producers have developed fiber-based materials such as molded pulp or functional papers to replace polymers.

Materials in Sustainable Packaging

Now that you’re interested in switching to sustainable packaging, here’s a quick guide on the materials that you can use for a more sustainable type of packaging! So basically, you can use anything that was made from recyclable goods and those materials that don’t take too long to decompose.

Here are some ideas for your packaging needs!

Recyclable Cardboard and Paper

Yes, recycled cardboard is a very famous type of sustainable packaging material that most companies use. These come from processed and reused sheets of thick/stiff multilayered papers previously used for other reasons.

A cardboard packaging means that it can be used for heavy-duty purposes, such as packaging for bigger objects that need more support and care. Because of their durability and toughness, these are great options for fragile materials.

To accompany the recycled cardboard, recycled papers are usually used. Papers protect the material being packed, and they act as shock absorbers so that the material doesn’t get damaged easily upon delivery.

Sustainable Mushroom Packaging

You might find this shocking, but yes, mushrooms are used in the packaging industry as well! This packaging type is similar to Styrofoam, except it consists of a hundred percent renewable and biodegradable materials that can easily be recycled by nature.

In a way, mushroom packaging greatly contributes to the up-cycling system because it provides a new set of value to agricultural waste products that usually contain other uses and low economic generating value.

Cornstarch Sustainable Packaging

As the name heavily suggests, this type of packaging is made of cornstarch. It has a similar feel and consistency to plastic because it produces a by-product called polylactic acid (PLA) made from cornstarch as it gets processed.

Designs of Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable Packaging design has to meet the following requirements:

  • Efficient – the design maximizes sustainable packaging materials.
  • Effective –  it gives great value, and it supports the team’s advocacy for responsible packaging.
  • Safe –  the design of the packaging has to be safe and harmless for the health of humans, animals, and the environment
  • Cyclic – the design utilizes eco-friendly technologies, inks, and packaging materials.

A sustainable packaging typically stems from the package’s design – usually a design that uses minimal resources. However, a packaging’s design doesn’t only measure the right materials; it also considers its end-of-life utilization. One of the evergreen packaging trends, lightweighting is expected to accelerate further based on two factors: first, it will allow for less material usage and, second, it may lead to lower transport-related emissions. Investments could be centred on technology to enable this approach or on innovations in materials to replace current packaging with lighter materials.

For example, what will happen to the packaging once the buyer has already eaten the candy? What will the user do with the empty shampoo bottle? Can these materials be recycled? When designing sustainable packaging, the most important thing to consider is how it will be utilized after the product it contains has already been used.

Sustainable Packaging FAQ

What is Sustainable Packaging?

Sustainable packaging is something that can be recycled, reused, and re-purposed. It is a material that is perfectly safe for the environment and for the people in it. With this, it lessens the ecological footprint as well as the environmental impact that regular packaging possesses.

What are the 3Rs in Environmental Sustainability?

  • Reduce: By switching to sustainable packaging, we limit the total sum of goods and materials that we consume.
  • Reuse: Reusing means that we can use sustainable packaging for future purposes other than the normal packaging that can only be used once.
  • Recycle: To recycle is to reuse a material but for a different purpose. TC Recycling processes these materials carefully and turns them into something that can be more useful for a community.

Sustainable Packaging Resources

Sustainable Packaging

Sue Rice

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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.