Transitioning to Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials: A Guide for Business Owners

July 26, 2023

Transition to eco-friendly packaging materials brings challenges. You might have concerns over cost, packaging durability, and consumer perceptions. If so, this comprehensive guide is for you. From practical steps for transition to understanding reasons why go green, we’ve got you covered. The rewards – for your business, your customers, and the planet – are well worth it. 

Moving to eco-friendly packaging materials

Transitioning to eco-friendly packaging requires strategic planning and informed decisions. To help you get started, we’ve prepared a list of practical steps:

Check the criteria that will ensure you choose a truly eco-friendly material 

Selecting genuinely eco-friendly packaging material requires thorough research and consideration. Here are some key factors to ensure your choice is truly sustainable:

  1. Life cycle analysis: This involves assessing the environmental impact of a material from extraction or production to disposal. A truly eco-friendly material should have a low environmental impact across its entire life cycle.
  2. Material origin: The raw materials used should be sustainably sourced. For example, paper should come from managed forests where trees are replanted. For bioplastics, it's better if they’re made from waste products rather than crops grown specifically for plastic production.
  3. Recyclability or compostability: Ideally, packaging should be easily recyclable or compostable, reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill. However, it’s also essential to consider local recycling and composting facilities – if your packaging is recyclable but facilities don’t exist locally to recycle it, the benefit is lost.
  4. Biodegradability: If the material ends up in the environment, it should degrade without leaving harmful residues. However, it’s important to remember that ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t necessarily mean it will break down quickly or safely in any environment.

You can learn more about differences between biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable packaging in our article about eco-friendly packaging materials.

  1. Non-toxicity: The material should not release harmful substances during its life cycle, either during production, use, or degradation. This protects not just the environment, but also the health of consumers.

An example of a truly eco-friendly material is NonOilen®, the only certified bioplastic on the market that contains only natural-based polymers with only eco-friendly additives.

Truly eco-friendly packaging materials are non-toxic.
Truly eco-friendly packaging materials are non-toxic.

Consider product requirements

It’s critical to keep in mind the specific requirements of your product when making the transition to eco-friendly packaging materials. These will influence the type of packaging that will be most appropriate. Some of the key product requirements to consider include:

  1. Protection: Packaging must protect the product it contains. If you’re selling fragile items, you’ll need secure packaging. For items like food or certain beauty products, the packaging might need to be airtight.

Evaluate the protective qualities of the eco-friendly materials you’re considering to ensure they’re fit for the purpose.

  1. Size and weight: The packaging needs to be suitable for the size and weight of your product. Some eco-friendly materials may not be robust enough for heavy items, or they might be too bulky for small products.
  2. Shelf life: If your product has a long shelf life, you need packaging that will protect it for the necessary period. Some biodegradable and compostable materials degrade over time, so they may not be suitable for products with a long shelf life.
  3. Legal and regulatory requirements: Depending on your industry, there may be specific regulations you need to follow regarding packaging. Let’s take an example. In the EU, all materials that come into contact with food must comply with the Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 on materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

Partner with reliable suppliers 

Since not every solution is not truly biodegradable and compostable, it’s important to seek suppliers with proven track records in eco-packaging who hold certifications guaranteeing their commitment to sustainable practices.

  1. Certifications: Reliable suppliers have certifications from relevant bodies confirming their eco-friendly practices. Look for certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for paper products, Food Contact Materials (from EU Reference Laboratories) for food packaging, or ILAC MRA for biodegradable materials.
Biodegradability certificate
Biodegradability certificate
Food Contact Certificate
Food Contact Certificate
  1. Experience and reputation: A supplier with a proven track record and positive customer feedback is often a safe choice. It’s worthwhile checking out their portfolio, case studies, or customer testimonials.
  2. Quality assurance: The supplier should be able to consistently provide high-quality materials. They should also have measures in place to ensure that quality standards are consistently met.
  3. Custom packaging: Seek a manufacturer who offers tailor-made solutions and can adjust size, thickness or colour of your packaging.
Always look for certified eco-friendly materials.
Always look for certified eco-friendly materials.

Educate your customers

Educating customers about the transition to eco-friendly packaging is a critical step in your sustainability journey. Here are some ideas on how you can educate them beyond what they already know:

1. Label clearly: Make sure your eco-friendly packaging is clearly labelled with information about the material used and disposal instructions.

If the packaging is biodegradable, compostable or recyclable, provide instructions on how to compost or recycle it properly.

2. Help your customers get involved: Make your customers feel part of the change by community building, hosting events, and featuring their stories on how they use products.

3. Reach your customers online: Use your online platforms to share the story behind your switch to eco-friendly packaging. Post explanatory blogs, videos, infographics, or host a live Q&A section. Build a mailing list, and send out an announcement about your new packaging. 

4. Share your knowledge proactively: Participating in expert events, conferences, and events targeting consumers as a speaker is a great opportunity to share what you know about your eco-friendly packaging (such as the production process, benefits, and proper disposal) with others.

Benefits of transitioning to eco-friendly packaging 

The benefits of choosing eco-friendly packaging extend beyond just environmental conservation.

First, the world is grappling with a global waste crisis. In 2021, 390.7 million tonnes of plastics were produced globally. 90.2% of it was fossil-based. Around 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastics end up in the ocean each year, causing marine pollution. Transitioning to eco-friendly packaging can help alleviate this issue.

Second, consumers are demanding sustainability. Google searches for sustainable goods increased by 71% between 2016 and 2020. About half of US consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.

By adopting eco-friendly packaging, you can meet customer expectations, improve your brand image, and make a positive impact on our planet.

Make the transition today. Start your journey towards sustainability with eco-friendly packaging materials. Your business, your customers, and your planet will thank you.

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