Going Beyond Sustainable Packaging to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
by Ryan Szporer
Every minute, 1 million plastic bottles are being bought all over the planet. It’s fair to say each one won’t end up being recycled either. In fact, 91% won’t be, leading to a lot of unneeded plastic clogging up the eco-system.
To help combat the situation, a few years ago the Coca-Cola Company came out with a fully recyclable bottle made from plants, which impressively fits into a closed loop system. In a closed loop, materials are fed back into the system through composting or recycling. However, they can also be re-used or repurposed. For example, Samsonite takes those plastic bottles and uses them to create luggage.
What Is True Sustainable Packaging?
True sustainability doesn’t just take into account materials that go into packaging, though. True sustainability also considers potential waste during the production process. That’s one misconception surrounding sustainability. When introducing end-to-end sustainability, you actually need to look back to the very beginning, to the point where the packaging is designed and then approved.
For example, the packaging-approval process can result in many rounds of revisions until everything is ready to produce. The result can create wasted resources if your process isn’t as tight as possible, even if the packaging itself is 100% sustainable.
Significant resources get wasted when mistakes slip through your supply-chain cracks, into stores, and potentially into customers’ hands. Avoidable errors can result in recalls leading to heaps of wasted packaging that have no value. In 2015 alone, 77.9 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in the United States consisted of containers and packaging. Over one third of that total ended up in landfills.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Ultimately, it’s about reducing your carbon footprint as a whole. That includes securing your product packaging workflow through effective quality control. Preventing recalls by catching errors means less packaging and less waste… and a lot less gasoline consumed. After all, the resources you need to carry out recalls, which cost on average $10 million in the food industry, don’t include the transportation and labor costs of putting more packaging through your supply chain and re-shipping the product. It all hurts your bottom line and the packaging footprint you’re trying to market as sustainable.
So, it’s time to start look beyond your product at your complete end-to-end process. Many companies are integrating new technologies and automated systems that can spot errors before going to print as a pre-emptive strike against recalls. The point is, to address sustainability, it’s important to consider how products are made and how to be as efficient as possible with the resources available.
It turns out the idea that integrating sustainable packaging leads to higher costs is actually a myth. Studies show that companies that look to become more eco-friendly overall enjoy as much as an 18% return on investment increase. That’s potentially a lot of green for going green.
Getting there requires a lot of outside-the-box thinking. Ideally, the packaging itself would fit into a closed loop. Multi-functional designs are also popular. Think edible food packaging as a way to combat the plastic bottles problem instead. In fact, edible water pouches made from seaweed are being developed as we speak. That’s not just outside-the-box thinking. That’s outside-the-bottle thinking.
How can you take advantage of the eco-friendly wave of edibly packaged water forming behind you? It can actually be quite simple, literally. Simple packaging designs made from single materials are more easily recyclable. As long as you do your research and strike the perfect balance between functionality and sustainability, you’ll find yourself on the right path.
The trick is leaving as light of a footprint as possible as you do, which also involves making sure your sustainability efforts aren’t erased by production missteps.