‘Sustainable packaging’ has been gaining momentum for a while as the world begins to look more closely at its carbon footprint. So what should your company be doing to play it's part? In this article we unwrap the latest industry news and explore how effective various pieces of the eco-friendly jigsaw are.
Sustainable Packaging: The Big Picture
There are three key concepts at the centre of sustainable packaging: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together, these aim to give companies a basic framework for helping to reduce the environmental impact of retail packaging. There are many ways that the concepts can be implemented, including material and technological innovations, legislative changes, and encouraging consumers to adjust their habits. The idea is a popular one, with even giants such as McDonalds – not historically known for their green credentials – committing to achieving 100% sustainability in their packaging. With this context, sustainability is something that no business, of any size, can afford to ignore.
Material Science and Packaging Engineering
Recent years have seen dynamic developments in sustainable packaging, giving companies more flexibility and control over their packaging choices. For example, popular sustainable options such as recyclable paper and cardboard have now been joined by innovative substrates made from mushroom and seaweed. The latter are cheap to produce, are fully bio-degradable, and have a very low carbon footprint. Increased innovation leads to lower costs and increased personalisation for brands.
As of April 1st 2022, any packaging that contains less than 30% recycled material will be taxed. Companies therefore have the option of changing their packaging at short notice or passing the cost on to the consumer – a hard sell during a difficult time for many households. This opportunistic tax will be part of a much more comprehensive legislative overhaul that aims to tackle multiple areas of packaging sustainability. These include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the conservation of resources, and the minimisation of contamination and toxicity. As such, switching to recycled Polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) to avoid the new tax is likely to be a good short-term solution, with forward-thinking companies already planning to find fully-sustainable substrates in the mid term. By staying ahead of the legislative ball game, companies can potentially give themselves a financially robust, future-proofed competitive edge.
Confusion has long been the hallmark of packaging disposal practices. Local Authorities (LAs) have different rules about what can and can’t be recycled, and the second ‘r’ of sustainability – reuse – has always been difficult to implement in a throwaway culture conditioned towards disposable waste. Research suggests that clear labelling is central to helping consumers make informed choices about various packaging benefits and how to reuse or recycle them correctly. As such, convenient packaging design is central to ensuring sustainability goals are met. By making it easier for consumers to recycle and reuse more of their packaging, companies can infuse their brand with a personal touch, which is an extra bonus for this sustainability strategy.
Benefits For Companies
Even though sustainable packaging is a global environment issue, there are many additional reasons why companies should make the change. Firstly, consumer demand is very clear. 70% of consumers are happy to pay more for eco-friendly packaging, with the figure rising to 83% for the below-44 age bracket, illustrating how millennials and Gen-Z audiences are leading the momentum. Companies that make the change can improve their sustainability profiles, which has both short-term and long-term strategic benefits. For instance, incorporating environmental considerations as part of brand definition can ensure that organisational identity is cost-effectively future-proofed ahead of the roll-out of yet more new legislation. With a few simple steps, businesses can demonstrate cultural awareness, agility, and responsiveness, as well as legal compliance, all of which can enhance organisational profiles and lead to increased sales.
At Kudos Giftwrap, we understand the importance of sustainability within the packaging experience. To learn more, please download our free Sustainable Packaging Guide, or get in touch to speak with one of our advisers.