Designing CPG packaging is hard, because packaging designs have to satisfy regulations and consumers, while minimizing impact on the environment.
The good news, however, is that companies with strong, sustainable packaging strategies perform better in nearly every market segment than do those that disregard sustainability, with 4% higher margins, according to one study.
More good news is that innovators worldwide are developing new packaging materials and technologies that make sustainability easier for brands. And sustainable brands resonate with today’s consumer—particularly with the 83 million or so millennial consumers in the U.S. alone. Here are five exciting, innovative eco-friendly packaging options that are either available or on the horizon.
1. BPA-Free Inks
Companies at the upcoming PACK EXPO in Chicago will be showcasing eco-friendly inks designed for primary and secondary food packaging and made without BPA-based materials. What’s more, these inks are designed to make graphics look their best on packaging materials, so they lose none of their appeal to consumers.
2. Compostable Single-Use Bread Bags
A French company called Emsur France SPO has developed a fully compostable single-use plastic bread bag. Forty percent of the material is bioplastic, composed of polymers from renewable resources like corn, cellulose, and plant oils. What’s more, by the year 2020, France will be required to use plastics that are at least 50% bioplastic, and the figure rises to 60% by 2025.
3. Sugarcane Plastic Mailing Bags
A UK company has created GreenPE mailing bags, made up of thermoplastic, sustainable resins derived from sugarcane. This product’s environmental bona fides extend throughout the production chain. For one thing, sugarcane is a water-efficient crop that is grown in adherence to strict ethical guidelines. Every kilogram of GreenPE saves 2.78 kg of carbon dioxide compared to conventional plastic production.
4. Bio-Based PET
Sacramento-based Origin Materials is teaming up with Danone and Nestle Waters to create PET plastic bottles made from 100% sustainable and renewable resources. The materials that will go into these bio-based plastics include things like used cardboard and sawdust and are designed not to divert resources or land from food production. The goal is complete replacement of fossil-based plastics with bio-plastics.
5. Edible Packaging
Believe it or not, edible packaging has been invented. WikiCells, created by Harvard professor David Edwards, is made by mixing miniscule natural food particles and natural chitosan or alginate. The result is a water-resistant gel that contains the food product. It can be simply biodegradable, or even edible, and could take reduction in packaging waste to an entirely new level.
Eco-friendly packaging design is no longer just a perk that appeals to environmentally conscious consumers. Today, it is considered a standard goal, and some packaging industry experts think we have reached a tipping point in regard to the transition to sustainable packaging. Now more than ever, companies’ long-term prosperity depends on not only financial performance, but on making a positive contribution to society. Eco-friendly packaging makes perfect sense as a way to do encourage both types of business performance.
Consumers have made it clear that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they want CPG brands to address, and it’s up to brands to find ways to use less packaging, source it responsibly, and make it easy to dispose of, compost, or recycle after use. Brands that do this can use these responsibility measures in their brand-building efforts. Brands that don’t do this stand to lose big, particularly as additional new and sustainable packaging designs emerge.
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