Making Food Packaging Better
What does sustainability in food packaging mean?
When it comes to actually figuring out what sustainable food packaging means, you have to go to the source. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition outlines eight key metrics that the packaging must hit to be classed as sustainable. They include:
- Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
- Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
- Optimises the use of renewable or recycled source materials
- Is effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycle
Whilst this is not the complete list, it gives a good flavour of what your packaging has to include if it wants to be classed as sustainable.
What’s the difference between biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packaging?
There are slight but major differences in how products are classed, and looking at the definitions of each classification will help decide which packaging is yours.
This is where products can be reprocessed into new products and follows the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ waste hierarchy which stops unnecessary filling up of landfills. Products can be recycled into the same product, such as glass bottles into glass bottles, or into lower grade materials, such as magazines and newspapers into toilet paper.
Compostable packaging is where your packaging is designed and developed to break down within 1 to 3 months when the conditions are right. Good quality compostable must be tested prior to classification and will compile with BS EN13412.
These materials break down naturally, but there is no specific timeframe for them to do so, and as such, there is scope for this classification to be abused. Something classed as biodegradable could take years. Biodegradable packaging is not regulated or certified and must be used with care.
How can packaging companies ensure their products are sustainable?
There are a multitude of ways in which packaging companies can ensure their packaging is sustainable and starts at the very beginning of their process. Using green energy to power the business and manufacturing plants that produce your packaging. By endeavouring to make your process green, you’ll be going a long way to providing your consumers with sustainable packaging.
You can also, and this point may seem self-explanatory, use recycled materials in the production of your packaging. Whilst it is not always possible to use 100% recycled materials, every little helps, and investing in research to find out how to use more recycled materials each time is a small price to pay.
Ship your items in bulk. We are in the Amazon days, where small packages are scurrying across the globe on a minute by minute basis. Shipping in bulk will reduce the number of cars and lorries on the road and will also reduce your shipping costs.
Does sustainability mean packaging is more expensive?
Many companies believe that it’ll automatically cost more to use sustainable packaging, but whilst it may seem that way, using low-grade materials which harm the environment would seem to be much more detrimental. But that is not just the only thing that could sway the mind. There is the Plastic Packaging Tax that came into force in April 2022. According to Gov.co.uk ‘You will need to pay Plastic Packaging Tax if you have manufactured or imported plastic packaging components which contain less than 30% recycled plastic.’ This means that if you are using less plastic then you’re already saving money.
Sustainability in food packaging is one of the most important issues facing the food packaging sector at the moment Not only is it important for the health of our planet, but consumers are becoming more green-minded, and making sure that our packaging is sustainable will go a long way to ensuring that you get their business over other, less responsible packaging providers. The future is in our hands, and only sustainability will ensure we have one.
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