Hot topics in sustainable packaging

Sustainability in packaging is barely in its second decade, yet a dizzying level of innovations are radically transforming the industry.

Packaging sustainability efforts address every facet – and every player – of the supply chain. Nearly every innovation takes into account each product or feature’s lifecycle, and its environmental impact and ecological footprint. Suppliers, contract packagers, and distributors are all expected to buy into the concept, as this article points out.

If you aren’t paying attention, you’re missing out on some of the hottest developments in packaging today. Consider these Top 9 Sustainable Packaging Trends – all of which revolved around the concept of a circular economy — from ThinkStep, a software firm specializing in sustainability:

  1. Design for recycling.
  2. Design for reuse.
  3. Replace plastics with bioplastics.
  4. Replace plastics with paper.
  5. Reduce and remove packaging.
  6. Shift to mono-materials.
  7. Increase recycled content.
  8. Try new out-of-the-box ideas such as changing the form of packaging, completely enhancing stackability, and emptiability.
  9. Customer is key.

Here are some additional nuggets from around the world of sustainable packaging:

  • Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has shortened the original list of the “7 Rs” of sustainable packaging, according to Packaging Digest magazine to reduce, reuse and recycle, “but also added a new term, rethink, to encourage companies to always remember to consider smarter sustainable options. The tide turned when the so-called “Garbage Barge” shined a light on the problem of packaging waste. “Sustainable packaging is no longer focused on just recycling,” the article asserts. “Just as packaging is not the only eco target, although it is still top of mind for many.” The magazine itself notes that sustainable packaging is the hottest topic so far this year with readers.
  • Coca-Cola European Partners is switching the carriers on its multipacks from shrink wrap to paperboard to reduce packaging waste. The organization estimates this change in its beverage packaging will remove about 4,000 metric tons of single-use plastic per year from its current supply chain.
  • TC Transcontinental Packaging is accelerating development of recyclable and compostable flexible packaging. The company helps brands rewrite their flexible packaging story using recyclable and compostable materials.
  • Plant-based packaging is taking off. One example: Family-owned Coconut Bliss of Eugene, OR, has artfully and sustainably redesigned the packaging from the inside out for all its cupped frozen desserts by using plant-based bio resin polyethylene made from sugarcane husks that’s an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based PE resin.

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