It is easy to firstly think of plastic bubble wraps, cardboard boxes and many other myriad of coverings when we talk of packaging, but in a world currently plagued by climate change stemming from the recycling of non biodegradable wastes into water bodies, we begin to think that there is more to packaging that either makes or mar our environments. One popular place for companies to make changes is in their packaging — but what is eco-friendly packaging, and why is it so important?
The word “Eco” means “earth” and friendly can stand in to mean harmless. A recent study carried out by Good Housekeeping Institute, the term “eco-friendly” means everything from production to packaging needs to be considered safe for the environment. Other authors have simply defined eco-friendly packaging as any packaging that is easy to recycle, is made out of recycled materials and safe for individuals and the environment. It uses materials and manufacturing practices with minimal impact on energy consumption and natural resources.
Product packaging as compared to now has not always been eco-friendly. We know this because years back, product packaging especially for consumable commodities (food and drinks) was to protect the contents from dripping or spilling, which explains the use of plastic wraps, as it was lighter, more cost-effective and easier to transport. However, the production and usage of product packaging evolved to become more sustainable and environmentally-friendly as both producers and consumers became more aware of the threats and opportunities posed by waste recycling.
According to the study carried out by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, there exist 8 major criteria for sustainable or eco-friendly packaging. These criteria include;
-It is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
– Meets market criteria for performance and cost
– It is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
– It optimises the use of renewable or recycled source materials
-It is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
-It is physically designed to optimise materials and energy
-It is effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles
Why is Eco-friendly Packaging Important?
Having already defined and discussed the resort to eco-friendly packaging, it is also worthy to note that the usage of sustainable packaging is very crucial for both the producer and the consumer of the good or brand. The issues of cost-effectiveness, means of recycling, and how much packaging your product will require come into play. Nevertheless, we can respond to these when we have a clear understanding of the key importance of eco-friendly packaging in what follows below.
- Demonstrate your sustainability knowledge to customers
Producers, manufacturers, and distributors who show a good mastery and understanding of the sustainability of their packaging paint a good image of their brand and by doing so increase consumer choice of these brands or goods.
- Minimise contamination of recycling / Biodegradable
The usage of biodegradable eco-friendly packaging will reduce the contamination of recycling because this packaging is manufactured with the use of environmentally friendly raw materials and will present little or no risks with regard to our environments even after recycling.
- Multipurpose and reduction of overpackaging
Asides from improving brand image and minimising contamination of recycling and being biodegradable, another key advantage of eco-friendly packaging is due to its multipurpose nature and reduction of overpacking. Sustainable packaging reduces the cost of shipping due to the less weight of the products being transported.
What can be done – about eco friendly packaging?
The question of what can be done has its place in the discussion of eco-friendly packaging because, for instance, we still suffer from the effects of climate change caused by the recycling of inorganic waste. Similarly to climate change, the advocacy conversation, the production and use of eco-friendly packaging cuts across different sectors. Put differently, eco-friendly is a multi sectoral conversation and should not only be the responsibility of a particular sector. There is a need for states to develop new legal policy frameworks and effectively implement already existing frameworks to guide the use and recycling of inorganic waste which is harmful to the environment. Following the case of the US’s implementation of the Land Disposal Restrictions for Hazardous Waste, which prohibits the disposal of all forms of hazardous wastes considered by the state as dangerous to the environment. Developing and third-world countries are not left out in the fight against environmental degradation as they also continue to develop and implement policies in alignment with the international safety standards via legal prohibition, and sustainable partnerships in environmental management.
Furthermore, the capacities and knowledge of individuals and members of local communities ought to be built, through sensitisation and awareness raising online and offline, on the importance of eco-friendly packaging. According to a study carried out by the Harvard Business Review on Consumer Behaviour, the Elusive Green Consumer, few consumers with knowledge of sustainability appreciate the usage of eco-friendly products but in most cases due to social influence men think the aspect of sustainability appears more as a “feminine thing” and this just turns off the switch of sustainability.
World economies continue to evolve, as seen by the continuous drag between producers and consumers who want to maximise profits and satisfaction respectively. The former continue to find new ways of attracting consumers to their products with strategies ranging from juicy discounts to the quality of the product/brand, as well as the quality of customer services and even packaging. While the above strategies vary according to different consumers, it is always necessary for both parties to reflect on where the waste goes and how it impacts the environment, even though this technology might appear new to some while costing a fortune for small sized industries as compared to traditional inorganic packaging.