Packaging is used for everything, everywhere. Whether it be in your shopping trolley or used to protect your deliveries, there is no avoiding the fact that most items come packaged. Many businesses are now switching their regular packaging materials to eco-friendly substitutes, but is it really worth it?
The drive to move from non-eco-friendly and/or single use packaging stems from the damage being done to the environment when these materials end up in landfill or discarded, but there are questions around whether eco-friendly, biodegradable packaging is sustainable in other ways.
Eco-friendly packaging pros
- Lack of toxins – Unlike regular packaging which is created from petrochemical and synthetic materials, most biodegradable and eco-friendly packaging materials use allergy free, non-toxic materials. Adding heat to packaging that is not eco-friendly, such as Styrofoam, can release toxic chemicals into food products which can be avoided when using eco-friendly alternatives such as paper or cardboard.
- Biodegradable – Another pro of using eco-friendly packaging is that it is beneficial even in the last stages of its life. Depending on the type of material used, eco-friendly packaging is typically made to break down in industrial compost facilities. It will also disintegrate if in the unfortunate event that it is littered. Materials like polystyrene can take hundreds of years to biodegrade and unfortunately litter the planet.
- Carbon footprint reduction – As a business or an individual, using eco-friendly packaging to package your products or deliveries will help you to significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The term “carbon footprint” means the level of greenhouse gases that are let out into the environment as a direct result of human activity. Eco friendly packaging uses recycled materials, so it minimises the number of resources from heavy energy sources. Overall, the production of recycled eco-friendly packaging releases less carbon emissions than brand new packing.
- Brand image – Using eco-friendly packaging can help a brand improve their image. People are becoming more and more aware of how important it is to use products and packaging that is eco-friendly so by businesses showing that they are also environmentally conscious can make a big difference to the choices customers make.
Eco-friendly packaging cons
- Expense – The cost of switching packaging from regular to eco-friendly can be quite expensive for many businesses, especially small ones. The switch in packaging can lead to can lead to higher production costs and higher costs in other internal packaging processes. Although eco-friendly packaging solutions can be cost efficient in the long run, it can be difficult to work out exactly when that will happen.
- Contamination – The materials that are used in eco-friendly packaging can easily breakdown but that is only if they are correctly disposed. There is a high risk of cross contamination with packaging when it is in customers homes and when they arrive at recycling facilities. Cross-contamination of eco-friendly packaging can make it difficult for the recycling facilities to break it down so it may end up in land-fill and create even more waste than initially intended and actually increase businesses carbon footprint.