The Guide to Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials

packaging materials

Make environmentally responsible choices with this guide on sustainable packaging materials.

  • The Categories of Eco-Friendly Packaging
  • Examining Sustainable Packaging Materials
  • What is the reason why Coatings are essential for sustainable packaging?

Packaging trash has long been a problem in the retail industry.

Many plastics and formed foam have been left in the garbage for years.

The pandemic prompted the switch toward online purchases, and the eCommerce industry increased in popularity in a short amount duration.

Ordering everything from groceries to furniture is more convenient than ever, and businesses and consumers have greater responsibility to establish environmentally sustainable methods to support green initiatives.

It can be challenging to know how eco-friendly packaging materials are.

This is why it’s crucial to examine the life-cycle of the packaging material you choose to ensure that brands meet their obligations on their commitment to sustainability.

This complete guide to environmentally friendly packaging materials will assist businesses as well as consumers make environmentally friendly decisions and open the door to a more sustainable future.

There are Categories of Eco-Friendly Packaging

Sustainable packaging falls into three principal categories based on specifications and the capabilities of materials.

Recyclable Packaging

Recycling packaging is the most popular kind of sustainable packaging widely employed in the vast majority of the retail sector.

Recyclable packaging is not restricted to paper-based materials, including:

  • The cardboard is corrugated.
  • The pulp is molded
  • Kraft folding carton

Paper-based materials are recycled, soaked, chopped, cooked, removed, cleaned, bleached, and reformed into new paper-based products. This brings the materials full circle.

While it’s true that paper is less durable the more it’s recycled, the benefit of recycling materials is that a majority of them, if not all, are biodegradable.

This means that at the end of its lifespan, it can be decomposed, making it a complete circle without adversely impacting the ecosystem.

Compostable Packaging

Paper-based packaging can be composted, but it will not perform on a massive scale since it depends on the composting infrastructure and waste management programs to bring the waste process to full circle.

Materials specifically designed to be compostable are:

  • Bioplastics
  • Packaging for mushrooms
  • Cornstarch Packaging

While the mushroom packaging industry is in the beginning phases of being developed as an environmentally friendly packaging material, bioplastics and cornstarch-based packaging are gaining market share as compostable products, particularly in the restaurant and food industry.

Food and restaurant businesses are responsible for significant waste packaging due to using polystyrene and polystyrene to ensure durability and hygiene.

However, compostable packaging, such as bioplastics and cornstarch, is engineered to give up-to-date quality and hygiene properties. Make sure that the packaging does not break down in a short amount of time.

Bio-plastics and cornstarch packaging materials are marine biodegradable. They will disintegrate in water and act as food for marine creatures.

Reusable Packaging

Reusable packaging is exactly as it is.

Packaging and products are constructed using robust materials that will ensure longevity and promote reuse, which largely contributes to an overall circular economy.

Reusable packaging is among the greenest options currently available because it eliminates the need for plastic packaging for single use, which is a significant contributor to global packaging waste.

Some of the most well-known reusable packaging options for products include:

  • Bags
  • Tin boxes
  • Collapsible rigid boxes

Shipping goods around the world create vast amounts of waste. Reusable pellets and shipping containers could reduce costs and improve the return on investment.

The result is that reusable packaging can also be recyclable, ensuring a minimal environmental impact after a product’s lifespan.

Studying sustainable packaging materials

Corrugated Cardboard

The traditional corrugated boxes are composed of 3 fiberboard layers inside their structure.

These outer layers are known as linerboards. The curly layer of paper sandwiched between the linerboards and the flute is affluent.

In certain instances, the corrugated sheets are doubled up for added protection for the products, which means combining different types of fluting.

Corrugated boxes are the most commonly used choice for shipping and mail.

The walls offer the needed security for the most challenging handling. Furthermore, the materials are relatively affordable.

Most businesses use corrugated containers to help transport efficiently and transport vast quantities of goods long distances.

However, some companies choose to print on their corrugated boxes to increase their impact on their brand.

Corrugated cardboard is recyclable, but some inks could hinder the recycling of the material.

If businesses decide to print on cardboard corrugated, environmentally friendly inks may be used to ensure ecologically sustainable practices.

Popular links that are sustainable and sustainable for packaging uses include:

  • Soy ink
  • Vegetable ink
  • Ink based on water

Kraft Folding Carton

Natural kraft is long-lasting, tear-resistant, and brown due to pulping kraft.

Perfect for making robust wrapping papers and strong cartons, as well as the rigid box, Kraft paper is available in various shades and colors, making it highly adaptable for branding packaging solutions.

The surface of Kraft paper is rough and porous, allowing high-quality printing and finishing to give an authentic rustic look and feel.

The durability of kraft paper is higher than that of regular paper due to the process of kraft.

More Linnean is removed from the pulp of kraft wood, leaving cellulose, making paper durable and tear-resistant.

Raw kraft paper is known to become more porous than standard papers and, consequently, slightly less efficient for printing, yet extremely open to finishing techniques like:

  • Embossing/debossing
  • Stamping with foil

Since kraft is a natural material, it’s 100% recyclable, and eco-friendly coats are a great way to enhance the packaging design.

Tin Boxes

Tin boxes are a fast-growing environmentally friendly packaging material since it’s completely recyclable and reusable but still provide an elegant look and feel.

Tin can be processed and returned to the manufacturing cycle without degradation in quality. They also have magnetic properties, making it easy to extract them from the waste stream if required.

For luxury brands that want to adopt more sustainable practices, Tin packaging is an excellent way to increase the perceived value while enticing consumers to reuse or recycle.

Tin is also impervious to attack, which makes it ideal for keeping food items such as chocolates and small sweets clean and safe from the elements.

Molded Pulp

The molded pulp is typically used to make boxes with inserts for extra product protection and stability.

It can be an efficient alternative to plastic inserts since it offers more durability and protection for the products inside packaging boxes.

The material is molded to the product’s shape, making it durable and easy to use to package various products with a custom appearance and feel.

The coatings and varnishes may be applied to the surfaces of molded pulp inserts to give them a luxurious look.

However, it isn’t advised to print on molded pulp because of the roughness of the paper.

Cornstarch Packaging

In simple terms, the cornstarch packaging material is a biodegradable material for packaging that can substitute plastic styrene (Styrofoam) and plastic.

It can also be used in many ways in transparent and opaque materials.

Today, the most well-known method to use cornstarch packaging is to take away food items.

This includes options for packaging like;

  • Trays
  • Lids
  • Bags
  • Plates
  • Containers

Compared to petroleum-based plastics and plastics, Cornstarch packaging is biodegradable and sustainable, making it an excellent option for environmentally friendly packaging materials and plastic alternatives.

Magnetic and Collapsible Rigid Boxes

Rigid boxes with magnetic closures contain two magnets inside the boxes. They are locked together to close the package securely.

Due to its strong and sturdy construction, customers are inclined to reuse it, making it an excellent eco-friendly packaging option for high-end products.

Additionally, the magnetic closure provides a stylish unboxing experience, making it easier for consumers to save the boxes as storage or decor.

The magnetic closures are offered in traditional and collapsible designs.

Compact magnetic closures for rigid boxes are flatly packed and shipped and can significantly lower the costs of shipping and handling and carbon footprint.

The collapsible boxes usually come with double-sided tape, which adheres to the collapsible sides of the box. This makes it un-collapsible so that your customer can use it.

However, in many instances, companies will leave the collapsible function of their packaging so that customers can easily collapse and reuse packaging.

What is the reason why Coatings are crucial for sustainable packaging?

Packaging that is 100% recyclable remains an issue to create.

There are many layers to packaging, and each is composed of various materials, coatings, and inks.

Companies have had various options for reviewing their current usage, including prohibitions on certain types of materials, such as single-use plastic.

Although these are only small steps, there are much bigger ambitions that the industry is striving to achieve.

This mainly includes using more recycled material to create more flexible packaging, removing plastic that is not needed, developing newer types of plastic that can recycle, and expanding the availability of used plastic to encourage recycling.

With the emphasis on plastics on the horizon, it may be unclear how coatings can be integrated into the process.

Businesses have taken significant initiatives to provide consumers with recyclable and sustainable products. However, a lot of the industry has been greenwashed over time.

Although the materials that companies choose are crucial in the long-term sustainability of products, that coating, as was mentioned in the past, is often detrimental to the recycling capabilities of packaging.

Although coatings are beneficial as they offer additional functions, which would not be possible if plastic was eliminated entirely, they pose the question: how green is this plastic packaging?

That being said, the consumer will eventually pick the gist of companies that claim to be eco-sustainable but apply coatings that make the packaging unrecyclable.

It is now becoming increasingly popular; however, so is the public becoming aware of the phenomenon.

That’s why companies taking steps to implement sustainable initiatives must recognize and accept the importance of using sustainable coatings and green packaging overall.

Water-based coatings are now an increasingly sustainable option for packaging that is flexible.

This includes:

  • Primers
  • Barrier coatings
  • Varnishes
  • Heat-sealing

Water-based coatings last a long time, can withstand harsh conditions, and serve to protect any other sustainable coating.

Alternative technologies and solutions are being developed, making it evident that more innovations are to come in the future for environmentally friendly coatings. This will hopefully open the way to ecologically sustainable packaging options.

In the long run, we should expect more innovative ideas in sustainable packaging materials and an increase in adopting sustainable business practices.

In this comprehensive guide on environmentally friendly packaging materials, companies can make educated choices when changing to sustainable packaging to ensure a more sustainable future.