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Sustainable Packaging: How Much Does It Really Cost?

The demand for sustainable CPG packaging is increasing. Per PR Newswire, the global market for environmentally friendly packaging could be worth $358.3 billion by 2028.

Sustainable packaging can be costly. In the end, the advantages always outweigh the expenses. Here are some things to consider and a break-down of what the specific costs might look like.

What Is Sustainable Packaging?

Sustainable packaging is comprised of materials that are recyclable or biodegradable. This type of packaging is environmentally friendly because it's made up of materials that are renewable or reusable.

Packaging sustainability is also economical. Though sustainable materials may be costly, they will save you money over time. The key is to consider the costs of using these materials in the long run, and how doing so will positively impact both the environment and your business.

How Much Does Sustainable Packaging Cost?

The cost of recyclable CPG packaging depends on the materials you use. Common options include:

  • Glass
  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum
  • Paper

Different materials have varying uses. For example, aluminum and glass are frequently chosen for beverage containers, while cardboard and paper are used for packing fillers and actual packaging.

Typically, a ten-pound carton of kraft shredded paper will cost around $30, while a seven cubic foot bag of packing peanuts made from Styrofoam that cannot be recycled costs $21. More shredded paper is required to fill a box, but the cost of using it will be offset by the cost of disposing of materials that can’t be recycled.

Folding cardboard cartons are available for around $1, while a corrugated cardboard box costs about $2 or $3. Likewise, 480 sheets of tissue paper can cost between $20 and $40.

The exact cost of recyclable CPG packaging varies depending on the size of the materials, how much you need, and the company selling it. You can also buy some packaging materials in bulk, which could cut costs.

Sustainable Packaging Materials

Supermarket shelves

Sustainable packaging doesn’t need to limit your business: it can incorporate many different types of materials in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. What kinds of materials are used in sustainable packaging? 

  • Materials to keep products safe, such as corrugated wrap, biodegradable packaging peanuts, and air pillows made from recycled materials. 
  • Naturally-sourced and biodegradable packaging made from seaweed, mushrooms, and cornstarch 
  • Containers made of recycled products, such as aluminum and recycled plastic, cardboard, or paper 
  • Edible or compostable films Packaging that reduces mixed materials, making it easier to recycle 

With three-quarters of consumers looking for sustainable packaging, choosing one of these or a mix of these packaging materials will help consumers choose your brand over competitors’ brands.

Sustainable Packaging Important Features

What are some features of sustainable packaging? Sustainable packaging reduces the amount of material used to create the packaging and may focus on using reused or recycled materials. Sustainable packaging choices often reduce the energy and water used to create the packaging. 

Sustainable packaging also changes outputs. It reduces the amount of packaging so that less will go to the landfill or recycling. Less packaging and more recycled content means that less pollution is created during the process of creating the packaging. Businesses also consider whether the packaging can easily be recycled or reused, often reducing the use of mixed materials, which are more difficult to recycle. 

Why is Sustainable Packaging Important?

Plastics are a big part of everyday trash. Everything from milk cartons to water bottles, food containers, and liners are made of plastic. These materials land in dumps where they significantly pollute the environment and affect wildlife and groundwater.

Using CPG packaging made from sustainable material gives back to the environment instead of destroying it. Consumers that support sustainability will purchase products from companies that share their values and will also help spread the word.

Why Is Sustainable Packaging Worth the Investment?

Packaging sustainability helps create circular economies by reintroducing materials at the ends of their lives into new CPG packaging. This increases efficiency as it provides innovative solutions for many industries like food and e-commerce.

Brands committing to sustainability should consider how many of their products and CPG packages are made from recycled materials. This helps when working with suppliers to further circular economies.

Working with partners on your packaging sustainability design ensures all material can be reused. This also reduces the risk of incorporating alternatives that are not recyclable.

Real change occurs through participation with everyone in the supply chain. It involves rethinking the entire process rather than just the materials used.

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When considering the costs of recyclable packaging, think about long-term implications for the environment and how they can affect your business. The importance of packaging sustainability is growing among consumers as noted by McKinsey, which reports that 43% of U.S. consumers consider environmentally friendly packaging when purchasing products. As this number grows, so will the sustainability market and demand for recyclable solutions.

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How do sustainable packaging practices impact the environment?

Sustainable packaging practices have many different positive impacts on the environment. They can be energy and water efficient, saving valuable resources. They often incorporate recycled or reused materials and have a minimalist approach to packaging, reducing the amount of material used. Finally, sustainable packaging considers where packaging ends up after it is opened. It may be reused, recycled, or composted. 

Can sustainable packaging be cost-effective?

Yes, sustainable packaging can be cost-effective. Some of the most cost-effective packaging ideas include reducing the size of packaging or the layers of packaging, reusing materials. 

What are some challenges in implementing sustainable packaging?

Some challenges in sustainable packaging implementation include: 

  • Ensuring new packaging works with the products that you sell 
  • Reducing packaging while avoiding product damage or spoilage 
  • Determining what elements of sustainability are most important to your company

How does sustainable packaging align with brand values?

Increasingly, consumers are requesting that companies adopt sustainability goals, even if the company itself does not focus on eco-friendly products. Whether your company values its alignment with the ethics of consumers or has a specific commitment to environmental health, sustainable packaging aligns with many of today’s brand values.

How does sustainable packaging influence consumer behavior?

When presented with two items that are similar, consumers are more likely to choose the item that has messaging, images, and packaging that best aligns with their values. Clear messaging about sustainable packaging and your brand’s values can help consumers make this choice.



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