Is there such a thing as ‘Sustainable packaging’?
Climate change and pollution is now the #1 issue for the British public according to the 2021 Ipsos Mori issues index. Our client Forms Plus have ‘upped the ante’ on where they want to be as a sustainable business and asked Green Works to develop sustainable packaging training for their team.
Online shopping has seen huge growth, particularly during the pandemic, creating more demand for everything from envelopes, parcels and bubblewrap to tape. But how sustainable are these packaging materials? Is there even such a thing as sustainable packaging…?
First, we looked at some climate science, the urgent need for action, consumer perceptions and the business case. We then focused in on packaging and how ‘sustainable’ the different options are. ‘Sustainable’ is really a relative term when looking at packaging, depending on the criteria you are looking at. Here a few things to consider:
What material is the best choice: paper, plastic, glass, aluminium? All have different pros and cons and the ‘right’ choice will depend on what it is you are trying to package.
The amount of material used will make a difference. Go with as little material as you can whilst ensuring the product itself is kept protected. The product itself will usually have a much higher carbon footprint than the packaging, so preventing damage is the priority.
Use packaging that is the right size for the item you are packing. Any empty space around the item will need to be filled with yet more material, and you are effectively shipping air, with all the carbon emissions that go with it.
Many materials that are ‘recyclable’ are never actually recycled. Recycling should be easy for consumers and any extra trip to a collection point is best avoided, so check whether materials are part of regular household recycling collections. Packaging made of only one material is also preferable, as it can then go straight into the recycling bin without the need to separate different materials (honestly, most people don’t bother). Recycled content is important, as using recycled material helps ‘close the loop’, but just because something is ‘brown’ it doesn’t mean it has recycled content.
Equipped with all the info to inform their clients about the pros and cons of each packaging option, Forms Plus are ready to help make a difference and find the best solutions for you. Get in touch to have a chat!
Paul and Jennie are the founders of Green Works Consulting - see about us for more info