Sustainable production is becoming a priority for businesses of every size and type, and they’re hoping the packaging industry can provide part of the solution. Packaging plays a major role in the manufacturing and transportation process for literally every product on our shelves, but we only recycle a small percentage overall.
Impact of Packaging on the Waste Stream
While the packaging industry has taken some steps to reduce waste, especially with the use of thinner and lighter material, there’s still a long way to go. It’s estimated that packaging accounts for at least 25% of domestic waste, although the industry claims it’s only 10%.
It’s true that modern packaging materials cost less in terms of resources and energy required for processing or transportation. However, a lot of packaging is either more difficult to reclaim or completely non-recyclable, such as multiple materials laminated together, or contaminated with food.
Since convenience packaging is here to stay, this problem needs to be addressed from two angles – we need to reduce consumption as well as recycle waste.
How Can We Help Make Packaging Sustainable?
The responsibility may seem to lie with the packaging industry alone, but other industries can also promote sustainable packaging. Here’s how:
- Using Recyclable Glass Bottles – Plastic bottles are a major source of both landfill waste and ocean pollution, so we need to use more recyclable packaging materials such as glass instead. Not only is it possible to recycle glass into new bottles and jars, but also into building aggregate, fiberglass and other products.
- Recycling Aluminum and Plastic – Recycling aluminum takes a fraction of the energy and resources required for extracting and processing resources for fresh packaging. Plastic bottles can also be recycled into new bottles or jars, furniture and even clothing, especially those made with PET.
- Setting Up Recycling Banks – Proper collection is a key step toward effective recycling materials such as glass, aluminum, paper and plastic, so find out about local collection centers or consider setting one up. If you’re in the recycling business, there are government incentives available to help you out.
- Using Sustainable Materials – Use recyclable glass or tin containers for milk, juices and other drinks, as well as other liquids. Look for companies that offer packaging products made with recyclable materials like metal, paper and glass instead of laminated foil, PVC plastic and other non-recyclables.
- Reducing Excess Packaging – This is the most important move manufacturers can make today. Make packaging as minimal as possible, without affecting product safety or hygiene. Offer products in bulk where you can, and design packaging so it’s easy for consumers to reuse as well.
Sustainable Packaging and Profitability
Many companies wonder if it’s possible to maintain profitability with environment-friendly packaging products.
Demand for recycled material is on the rise, but it’s not as widespread or growing as quickly as many environmentalists hope. Various factors need to be taken into consideration with recycled packaging, including health, hygiene and convenience. Collection, sorting and processing often present their own problems as well.
The good news is that there’s constant innovation taking place on this front, primarily aimed at these challenges. Finding the right market may have been a challenge in the past, but demand is growing locally as well.
Top 5 Trends in Sustainable Packaging
These are 5 common sustainable packaging trends we’re seeing today:
- Lightweight and less resource-intensive materials
- Use of recycled materials instead of virgin resources
- Using renewable sources for raw material
- More efficient logistics and packaging processes
- Proper waste reclamation and recycling programs
This the right time for packaging companies to work with other businesses, setting goals that will balance profits with lower carbon footprints. It’s important use the right equipment for collection, sorting and recycling, and Northern California Compactors can provide the solutions you need. Contact us now to learn how we can help!